The Miniaturist, Part I: Dollhouse of the Damned

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for us costume drama lovers! After something of a drought (Howard’s End being the notable exception), we got an avalanche of offerings. Christmas Day is traditionally given over to the feel-goods. The shows that aren’t going to make you think too hard, because let’s be honest: you’re stuffed, you’ve most likely drunk a bit more than is … Continue reading The Miniaturist, Part I: Dollhouse of the Damned

The Decorated Duchess

A very happy birthday to Sarah Churchill, first Duchess of Marlborough, and one of the most influential women in English history. She was born Sarah Jennings on June 5, 1660. Sarah’s father, Richard, was a Member of Parliament who was friendly with the Duke of York (the future James II). As a result of the friendship, Sarah was appointed a maid of honor to James’s … Continue reading The Decorated Duchess

Any Excuse for a Vacation

On 25 July 1609, an emigrant ship called the Sea Venture found itself in dire straits after battling a hurricane for three days. Battered and taking on water, she was deliberately beached on the reefs of what would later turn out to be Bermuda, allowing all 150 people aboard, plus one dog, to land safely. Sea Venture, England’s first purpose-designed emigrant ship, set out from … Continue reading Any Excuse for a Vacation

The Sack of Baltimore

Quick, what was the biggest single attack by Barbary pirates on Ireland or Britain? If you answered the Sack of Baltimore, you’d be right! On June 20, 1631 pirates from the North African Barbary Coast, led by a Dutchman named Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, sailed all the way up to the village of Baltimore in West Cork, Ireland and decided to have a good old-fashioned … Continue reading The Sack of Baltimore

Too Dumb to Live

History’s most famous conspirators are usually notable for either being spectacularly successful or too dumb to live. A lot (a LOT) of them fall into the latter category, including Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators, who failed spectacularly at blowing up Parliament and went on trial starting January 27, 1606. I’ve already covered the plot itself, which was pretty much a giant lesson in how … Continue reading Too Dumb to Live

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November…

…the gunpowder, treason and plot! On November 5, 1605, one of the more absurd royal assassination attempts was thwarted when Guy Fawkes was discovered packing the basement of Parliament with gunpowder. His (and the other conspirators’) intent was to blow up the building during the State Opening, killing King James I, several members of the royal family, members of the Privy Council, members of the … Continue reading Remember, Remember the Fifth of November…

The Samlesbury Witches

On August 19, 1612, three women—Jane Southworth, Jennet Bierley, and Ellen Bierley—were brought to trial on charges of witchcraft. The trial of these women, known as the Samlesbury Witches, would become one of the most famous in English history. As often seems to be the case in sensational witch trials, this one was started by a teenage girl—one Grace Sowerbutts, who accused the three women … Continue reading The Samlesbury Witches