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Archive for January, 2013

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Queen Henrietta Maria’s narrow escape from Cromwell’s men

Posted in Historical articles, History, Royalty on Wednesday, 30 January 2013

This edited article about Queen Henrietta Maria originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 112 published on 7 March 1964.

Charles I and Henrietta Maria, picture, image, illustration

Charles I and Henrietta Maria by Pat Nicolle

Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers walked up and down outside their new camp in the wood three miles from the gateway to the city of Exeter. Despite the discomforts of a soldier’s life under canvas they were all in high spirits.

“We’ll carry the head of Henrietta to London,” shouted one to another. “And Parliament will give us a reward of fifty thousand pounds for it. Then, in God’s name, we’ll be rich!”

The soldiers all laughed. They knew that Henrietta, Queen of England and consort of King Charles I, was confined by illness to the city of Exeter, because she had already written to their commander, the Earl of Essex, asking for a free passage out of it.

They knew, too, that the earl had sent back a curt reply, “that it is my intention to escort your majesty to London to answer to Parliament for having levied war in England.”

Indeed, those roundhead soldiers of Oliver Cromwell were so sure that Queen Henrietta was still in Exeter that they didn’t look any farther – or nearer. If they had done so they may have seen that at that moment Henrietta was right under their noses.

Right by the soldiers’ camp was an old hut, a woodman’s hut. Inside it was a heap of smelly litter. And under that heap of litter was the Queen – famished because she had not eaten for two days, and well able to hear the soldiers talking and shouting about her outside the hut.

This amazing incident in the amazing life of Henrietta took place towards the end of June, 1644. After the Earl of Essex had refused her free passage out of Exeter, Henrietta had risen from her sick bed (she was stricken with rheumatism, and had given birth only fourteen days previously to a Princess), escaped from the city in disguise and arrived at the woodman’s hut just before the roundhead soldiers pitched their camp there.

Not until the soldiers had gone did she move out. Then, escorted by a few faithful servants who had also escaped from Exeter and who rejoined her on the road to the coast, Henrietta sailed from England to her native France. Behind her she left an England in the terrible throes of civil war, and a husband fighting valiantly for his crown.

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St Paul refused to leave his prison dungeon

Posted in Ancient History, Bible, Religion on Wednesday, 30 January 2013

This edited article about St Paul originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 112 published on 7 March 1964.

St Paul in prison, picture, image, illustration

Paul reassuring the Roman jailer after the earthquake by Clive Uptton

It was an eventful day when Paul and his companion Silas first set foot in Europe. They landed near a city in Greece called Philippi, and their first meeting with people from that city was a very happy one. A woman called Lydia not only became one of the first Christians in that part of Europe, but invited Paul and Silas to share her family’s home during their stay.

All might have gone well during this visit if Paul had not noticed a young girl who was being led about by a band of rather rough men. The girl was out of her mind, but spoke so strangely that her masters used her as a fortune-teller.

Something about Paul and Silas fascinated this girl, who seemed, despite her strange manner, to realize that they were men of God. Paul could not bear to see her turned into a show-piece by the men to whom she belonged, so he spoke to her in the Name of Jesus, and was able to restore her mind to its normal state.

When her masters realized that she was no longer of any use to them as a fortune-teller, they were angry with Paul for what he had done. They went straight to the police and complained, quite falsely, that Paul and Silas were stirring up a revolt against the Roman governors of their city.

Soon they had roused quite a crowd of indignant citizens in their support, and the magistrates of the city had no hesitation in believing all the accusations that were made about Paul and Silas. Without giving either of them a chance to speak, these magistrates ordered the two apostles to be beaten, and then hauled off to prison.

Hearing that they were a dangerous pair, the chief jailer forced Paul and Silas into a dungeon, and there clamped their feet in wooden stocks.

Paul and Silas did not lose hope. They said their prayers, and, since sleep was impossible in such a place, they began to sing hymns.

Later that night the whole building suddenly began to tremble. The doors swung open, and the rings to which the prisoners were chained fell out of the wall. What had happened was an earthquake.

All was in confusion, and the jailer, awakened by the noise and thinking his prisoners had escaped, was about to kill himself in despair. Imagine his amazement when Paul assured him they were still his prisoners, and would not run away!

Perhaps this jailer already believed that his prisoners were innocent. He now asked Paul to tell him about the Christian message, and soon not only he but all his family were on the side of Paul and Silas, and were treating them not as prisoners but as guests.

Next day the magistrates, too, had changed their minds about Paul and Silas, and came themselves to apologize. Soon the apostles were back among their friends, having added the jailer and his family to the little band of Christians at Philippi.

Aesop was flung to his death by a mob

Posted in Ancient History, Historical articles, History, Literature on Wednesday, 30 January 2013

This edited article about Aesop’s Fables originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 112 published on 7 March 1964.

Aesop, picture, image, illustration

Aesop the storyteller by James E McConnell

The mob were howling for the black man’s blood. It did not matter that he was the King’s commissioner, sent to distribute money to the people. It did not matter that he was a court favourite, whose wit and ability as a story-teller had won him fame.

All that mattered was that the money, in the opinion of the mob, had been shared out unfairly. Four minae for each and every person; that was what the king had promised. Now all the money had been handed out and there were hundreds still with empty purses. They were angry – and suspicious of the man the king had sent.

Calmly, for he had dealt with many difficult and dangerous situations before in the same manner, the commissioner raised his hands for silence, and began to tell a story. This is the story:

“A hare being pursued by an eagle, betook himself for refuge to the nest of a beetle, whom he entreated to save him. The beetle therefore interceded with the eagle, begging him in the name of mighty Jupiter, not to break the laws of hospitality and kill the poor hare who was now the guest of a small harmless beetle.

“But the eagle, in wrath, flapped the beetle out of the way with his wing and seized the hare and ate him. When the eagle flew away, the beetle flew after him to find where his nest was, and getting into it, he rolled the eagle’s eggs over the side one by one and broke them.

“The enraged eagle built another nest on an even higher crag. But again the beetle got in and rolled the eggs to destruction. Next time the eagle flew up to heaven and placed his eggs in the lap of Jupiter.


“But the beetle made a tiny ball of dirt and flew up to heaven and dropped it into Jupiter’s lap. He rose to shake the dirt from his garment, quite forgetting the eggs, which again fell and smashed.

“When Jupiter found out the full truth about the feud, he blamed the eagle for the original insult. But not wanting eagles to die out, he asked the beetle to end the quarrel. The beetle refused, and to save the situation, Jupiter changed the eagles’ breeding season, to a time of the year when the beetle would not be about.”

For a moment the crowd were silent, pondering the meaning of this strange tale. For those who could not grasp its relevance to their own situation, the story-teller spelt out the moral:

“No one, however powerful, can slight the laws of hospitality. No influence, however powerful – even the influence of Jupiter himself – can protect the aggressor from vengeance.”

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Did Sir Francis Bacon write Shakespeare’s plays?

Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Literature, Mystery, Theatre on Wednesday, 30 January 2013

This edited article about Shakespeare originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 111 published on 29 February 1964.

Sir Francis Bacon, picture, image, illustration

Sir Francis Bacon, by C W Quinnell (after)

We come now to the most intriguing mystery in the riddle of William Shakespeare’s life – the suggestion that he never wrote the plays of William Shakespeare at all.

For there are many intelligent and learned people who believe that the world’s finest playwright was – a fraud!

They have written books about it, newspaper articles about it, made broadcasts about it. But they have not, of course, conclusively proved it.

And after years and years of mountainous research the true identity of Shakespeare remains a puzzle.

The answer may well lie in the tomb in Warwickshire where Shakespeare was buried in 1616. Many people say that the grave should be opened in the chance that precious manuscripts might be found to prove Shakespeare’s identity. Many of Shakespeare’s supporters, however, believe that any evidence about the Bard’s life which may be in the tomb should be hidden forever – that Shakespeare should be allowed to cherish his secrets.

Let us first name the two sides who argue for and against Shakespeare. Those who say Shakespeare was a fraud we will call the Anti-Stratfordians; those who say that Shakespeare wrote the plays of Shakespeare we will call the Stratfordians.

The Anti-Stratfordians kick off:

Are we to believe, they say, that the author of Hamlet, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice and like works of genius was a mere Stratford lad educated in a grammar school with very little knowledge of the sweeping, advanced Elizabethan theories of his day, theories which pour out time and time again from his plays?

If not Shakespeare, then who?

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St Paul was both worshipped and reviled in Lystra

Posted in Ancient History, Bible, Historical articles, History, Religion on Wednesday, 30 January 2013

This edited article about St Paul originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 111 published on 29 February 1964.

St Paul, picture, image, illustration

St Paul heals a cripple at the gates of Lystra by Clive Uptton

The two men who first preached the Christian Faith outside the Holy Land itself were Paul and Barnabas. Of the many strange adventures they had, none could have been stranger than the day they spent at a city called Lystra, in what is now Turkey. It was a day of surprises. In the morning they were treated like gods; in the afternoon like criminals!

At the gate of the city Paul had healed a crippled man. The people of Lystra were astonished, and could only explain such a miracle by supposing that their own gods had come to earth in human form.

The gods of the city of Lystra were the ancient gods of Greece and Rome, two of whom were said to have walked the earth before. Surely these two men were they. So the people called Barnabas “Jupiter” and Paul “Mercury,” and the rumour soon ran through the city that the old gods had returned.

By the time this strange rumour reached the priest who kept the temple of Jupiter, it had doubtless lost nothing in the telling. Everyone added his own touch to the story, and the priest was so impressed that he hurriedly arranged a procession of honour with which to meet the strange, and supposedly divine visitors to Lystra.

Before long, Paul and Barnabas were astonished to see this procession coming towards them. People were carrying garlands of flowers which they laid at the apostles’ feet, and soon they heard the lowing of oxen. When Paul asked what it was all about, he was told that the priest of Jupiter was about to sacrifice the oxen in honour of Barnabas and himself, in recognition of their godlike powers.

The two visitors looked at one another in amazement, and saw that something must be done to dispel the impression that they were gods. After a hurried consultation, Paul and Barnabas stood where all could see them, then deliberately tore their cloaks as a sign that they were not pleased, but distressed at what was happening. Then they ran among the crowd saying, “Look at us! Touch us! We are not gods! We are ordinary people just like yourselves!”

Eventually they persuaded the people to give up the idea of the sacrifice. Perhaps this disappointed their hearers and made them feel rather foolish. Then other visitors arrived saying, “These men have already been turned out of our city; they are trouble-makers! Don’t listen to them.”

The people of Lystra, already disappointed, turned angry and resentful. A stone was thrown at Paul, then many more, and by the end of the day the man who had been hailed as a god was left for dead outside the city walls. Only the care of his few devoted followers enabled him to recover enough to slip quietly away with Barnabas the next day.

Once more Paul had had a narrow escape from his enemies – but it did not discourage him. He and Barnabas travelled to Derbe to continue their teaching there.

Bomber Command and the controversial bombing of Dresden

Posted in Historical articles, History, War, World War 2 on Wednesday, 30 January 2013

This edited article about World War Two originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 111 published on 29 February 1964.

Bombers over Germany, picture, image, illustration

The Luftwaffe attacks Allied  bombers during the night raid on Hamburg by Wilf Hardy

A firestorm is a man-made volcano of destruction, a forest of fire that blazes at 1,000 degrees Centigrade. Its characteristic is an inrush of air of hurricane force. Its result is certain death to anyone within its area.

It is caused by high-intensity accurate bombing over a concentrated area, which starts numbers of uncontrollable fires that finally merge with each other in one vast blaze.

In July, 1943, after an all-out air attack on the German port of Hamburg, the first firestorm of the Second World War broke out. Thousands died, but history has forgotten that raid.

The last firestorm of the war raged with unprecedented fury for seven days and eight nights in the city of Dresden, deep in the heart of Germany, after a great Allied air attack that began on the night of February 13, 1945.

The destruction of Dresden – for such it was – became a matter of propaganda, a subject of parliamentary debate, a question of morality.

Who ordered the attack and why? Was Dresden a military target? Was it contrary to the policy of Bomber Command? And what really happened on that night of fire and terror?

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Fossils hold the secrets of primeval climate change

Posted in Animals, Geography, Geology, Nature, Plants, Science on Wednesday, 30 January 2013

This edited article about fossils originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 111 published on 29 February 1964.

Livingstone and fossil, picture, image, illustration

The young David Livingstone was a keen fossil hunter by Peter Jackson

Two hundred million years ago the world’s climate was much warmer and more moist than it is today, and the land that is now Britain was a wilderness of sand and swamp. Along the swamps grew thick, creeping undergrowth and giant ferns as big as oak trees.

Man had not yet appeared on the earth and most of the animals were gigantic creatures called dinosaurs. Some of these huge reptiles were a hundred feet long, twenty feet high, and weighed over a hundred tons.

One day in that distant period of the world’s history two dinosaurs strolled side by side along the edge of a swamp, leaving behind them a trail of huge footprints.

We know about that stroll because their footprints were made in what became the bottom of a Dorset quarry and can now be seen in a collection of fossils at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London.

Fossils are the traces of animals and plants that lived or grew on the earth millions of years ago and have remained to tell us what our world was like long before man was there to see it.

If you look at the face of a cliff or the sides of a quarry you will see that the rock walls are made up of layers one above the other. Geologists, the scientists who study the formation of the earth, call these layers strata.

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Alfred the Great and Jethro Tull are famous sons of Berkshire

Posted in Architecture, British Countryside, British Towns, Castles, Famous Inventors, Famous landmarks, Farming, Historical articles, History, Inventions, Royalty on Saturday, 26 January 2013

This edited article about Berkshire originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 111 published on 29 February 1964.

Windsor Castle, picture, image, illustration

A picture history of Windsor Castle by C L Doughty

In the green and wooded county of Berkshire a noble range of chalk downs overlooks the sweeping curves of our most historic English river – the Thames.

It was in the Thames valley, where the town of Wantage stands today, that England’s first great king was born in 849. He was the son of Ethelwolf, King of the West Saxons, and Queen Osburh. He was named Alfred.

When he was seventeen, the Danes began their terrible invasions of England. Alfred, under the kingship of his brother Ethelred, fought the Danes many times, and in 871 won a brilliant victory at Ashdown. The great White Horse, cut into the chalk hills at Uffington, is said to have been carved to celebrate that great battle.

In 871 Alfred became king, and in a space of seven years so utterly defeated the Danes that they sued for peace. Wessex was free again.

Berkshire still owes much to Alfred for saving many of its ancient remains from destruction, and the memory of him is strong throughout the county.

Alfred the Great is not the only king associated with Berkshire, for Windsor has been the home of our kings and queens for nine centuries.

The magnificent castle is unequalled anywhere in the world. It looms regally above the town and the Thames – if you come into Windsor from Eton across the river, the first sight of the high Round Tower, framed by the houses of Eton High Street, is an unforgettable one.

The great walls rise nearly 100 feet above the river, enclosing almost thirteen acres, to make it a town within a town. The giant flag that flies from the battlements is eight yards long and 3 yards wide, and its mast weighs two tons.

When on July 17, 1917, King George the Fifth declared that in future the Royal House of Britain would be known as “The House and Family of Windsor,” he cut the last remaining ties of the Crown with a foreign dynasty, and linked it with Windsor Castle – an embodiment in stone of all our history.

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The Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Mystery, Shakespeare, Theatre on Saturday, 26 January 2013

This edited article about Shakespeare originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 110 published on 22 February 1964.

Shakespeare's Dark Lady, picture, image, illustration

Shakespeare gazes on his Dark Lady from afar by Neville Dear

In considering the theatrical difficulties with which Shakespeare was faced in writing his plays we have so far considered his casting problems, like the way in which he wrote for certain accomplished actors of his time, and his handling of women’s characters, which were, of course, always played by boys.

Another thing we must remember is the style of the Elizabethan theatre. The audience sat or stood on three sides of the forty foot by thirty foot stage, and some of those in the upper gallery were actually behind the stage.

This gave an immediacy of contact with the audience not often possible in the theatre today.

Shakespeare’s plays were acted at a very fast pace, with lavish costumes, but no sets and no intervals. Rapid changes of action and emotion that sometimes make Shakespeare puzzling to us when we think of his plays, or see them on a “picture frame” stage, become understandable in the context of the big but very intimate theatre he wrote for.

At the Globe, the 3,900 lines of Hamlet took three hours. Today, were it not for the cuts usually made by directors, it would take at least four hours.

No places for scenes were ever specifically given by Shakespeare outside the dialogue. If your edition says before a scene “A street in Venice” or “A woodland glade,” these are insertions by editors.

Shakespeare never meant you to know until the moment he was ready and gave the clue in the text, exactly where the action was taking place. No edition of his play published before the eighteenth century gave any indication of place. Nor were the plays fully divided into acts and scenes.

Antony and Cleopatra and Romeo and Juliet were given no divisions whatever. In fact, the modern divisions we have in these plays and in many others are ruinous to Shakespeare’s intentions. There are often forty or more scenes in Antony and Cleopatra as produced today, and this spoils the flow of the action.

If we really believe that Shakespeare was the greatest dramatist that ever lived, should we not also believe that he knew what he wanted and did not want? Should we not go back to producing the plays as he meant them to be produced?

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Ben Jonson was Shakespeare’s last drinking companion

Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, London, Shakespeare, Theatre on Saturday, 26 January 2013

This edited article about Ben Jonson originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 110 published on 22 February 1964.

Ben Jonson, picture, image, illustration

Ben Jonson was a drinker, a brawler and on of England’s greatest poets and playwrights by Angus McBride

In the year 1598, at Hog’s End Fields, Shoreditch, two men faced each other with rapiers ready. One was Gabriel Spencer, a bad-tempered actor. The other, older, with a pock-marked face, was Ben Jonson, poet.

Nobody knows the cause of their quarrel. Spencer had the longer sword and wounded Jonson in the arm. The poet then drove his blade under the actor’s guard and Spencer fell dead.

Ben Jonson was tried at the Old Bailey and found guilty of murder but reprieved.

In the sixty-four years of his brawling, but learned, life, Benjamin Jonson was imprisoned many times, angered everyone that mattered, including King James I, and even in death did not lie at rest, for his coffin was set upright in Westminster Abbey. His plays, his poems, his dauntless spirit, are honoured to this day.

He was born in 1573, lived in Charing Cross and daily walked through the grounds of the Royal Palace of Whitehall to Westminster School, where his tutor, the scholar William Camden, revealed the classic world of Greece and Rome. His parents were poor, and when he failed to get a scholarship he was apprenticed to a bricklayer.

Ben’s heart was set on the theatre, but he wanted to mirror life in classical style without the airy fancies he criticized in the plays of his actor friend Will Shakespeare.

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