Good Queen Bess

Happy coronation day, Elizabeth! That’s right: on January 15, 1559, Elizabeth I, last monarch of the House of Tudor, was crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey, following her accession on November 17, 1558. After a highly unstable childhood, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn somehow managed to weather the reign of her devoutly Catholic half-sister, Mary, who was a little too fond … Continue reading Good Queen Bess

Good Christmas, Bad Christmas

In 1777, in the midst of the American Revolution, General George Washington led his army of about 11,000 men to Valley Forge, PA to camp for the winter. For many of them, it was the worst Christmas ever. Inadequate clothing and supplies, coupled with wet weather, meant the men were underfed, cold, and oftentimes sick. As many as 2,000 men are said to have died … Continue reading Good Christmas, Bad Christmas

The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh

On 10 September 1547, the English and Scottish armies met near Musselburgh, outside Edinburgh for their last pitched battle: the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. It’s viewed as the first modern battle in the British Isles, being fought between a medieval and a Renaissance army, and was a crushing defeat for Scotland, where it became known as Black Saturday. Pinkie Cleugh came at the end of … Continue reading The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh

Margaret the Uniter

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the joining of two countries. As Princess Margaret Tudor marries King James IV, England and Scotland are united and shall remain so forevermore. Right? Well, no. That certainly was the idea behind Margaret’s marriage to James, which took place on August 8, 1503, the day after she arrived in Edinburgh, but as we all know, the … Continue reading Margaret the Uniter

Call the Midwife: Dealing With What the Lord Has Sent Us

Call the Midwife title cardLondon, 1957. Jenny Lee, our main character, makes her way through the East End with a big suitcase, looking around and ignoring catcalls. In voiceover, Vanessa Redgrave tells us that she could have been a model, or a pianist, or something else equally glamorous, but instead she chose to become a midwife and head to the poorest area of the city, for some as yet undefined reason. As she approaches her destination, she comes across two women catfighting. It seems that the woman who has the upper hand has been stepping out with the other one’s husband. The neighbors gather to cheer, and finally a few bobbies appear and try to break it up. They continue fighting until a fierce-looking nun busts in and loudly asks which one is her patient. Wronged wife stands up and we can see she’s pretty preggo. Nun shakes her head, unsurprised either that this woman, Pearl Winston, is fighting or knocked up. Nun marches Pearl inside as Vanessa tells us that midwifery is the very stuff of life and midwives see it all. Thanks for giving us the reason for this show at the start—makes my job easier!

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Let’s Be Friends

After centuries of antagonistic relations (to say the least), Britain and France finally buried the hatchet with the signing of the Entente Cordiale on April 8, 1904. The Entente was a series of agreements that basically carved up giant chunks of Africa between the two nations: England got to keep meddling in Egypt and wouldn’t interfere in France’s attempts to “preserve order…and provide assistance in … Continue reading Let’s Be Friends

Downton Abbey: A Very Downton Christmas

A truck drives through the woods, a giant tree strapped to it, and pulls up in front of Downton, where Thomas supervises the tree’s unloading. A bit later (presumably), Daisy scoots through the house with coal scuttles, in a brief throwback to the opening scenes of the very first episode. In the great hall, O’Brien and Edith are decorating the big tree while Mary stands by, probably silently criticizing everything Edith’s doing. Daisy stops to stare at the tree like she’s never seen one before, until Hughes arrives to hurry her along.

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Top Ten Onscreen Royal Romances

It’s Valentine’s Day, and whether you have plans or expect to stay in, it’s a great opportunity to kick back, pop open some bubbly and a box of chocolates, and indulge in a few good old-fashioned romances. Everyone loves a good love story, and if it comes with tiaras, so much the better, so it’s no wonder royal romances have shown up onscreen in dozens … Continue reading Top Ten Onscreen Royal Romances