The King’s Architect

Happy birthday, Inigo Jones! The first significant British architect of the early modern period came into the world on 15 July 1573 and, before long, was leaving an indelible mark on London. His early life is somewhat murky, but he seems to have gotten his start in the theatre, where he’s credited with introducing movable scenery and the proscenium arch to England. He collaborated with … Continue reading The King’s Architect

St Thomas

On the first day of winter in 1118 or 1120, Thomas Becket, future Archbishop of Canterbury whose brutal assassination shocked the medieval world, was born in Cheapside, London. Despite the name of the neighbourhood, his family was fairly well off; his father was a landowner who served as the sheriff of London for a time, and both Thomas’s parents were buried in Old St Paul’s … Continue reading St Thomas

Malcolm and Macbeth

Double, double, toil and trouble…On July 27, 1054 Siward, the Earl of Northumbria invaded Scotland to join Malcolm Canmore’s effort to reclaim his throne from the usurper Macbeth of Scotland. Malcolm was the eldest son of King Duncan I, who was killed in battle by Macbeth on August 15, 1040, when Malcolm was (probably) still a child. His family attempted to overthrow Macbeth in 1045, … Continue reading Malcolm and Macbeth

Rescue 999

On 30 June 1937, the world’s oldest emergency call service, 999, went into effect in London. The introduction of the emergency number was prompted by a fire in November 1935, in which five women died. A neighbour tried to phone the fire brigade, but was made to wait in a queue by the Welbeck telephone exchange. He wrote an outraged letter to The Times, probably … Continue reading Rescue 999

Princess Bride

On May 13, 1515, Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor, Queen of France, were officially married at Greenwich Palace, more than two months after marrying in secret in France following the death of Mary’s first husband, the French King Louis XII. Mary, who was extremely close to her elder brother, Henry VIII, was reputed to be one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe. Her marriage … Continue reading Princess Bride

Burning Down the House

In a rather sad moment for the thespians and theatre lovers of London, the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane burned to the ground on February 24, 1809, leaving its owner, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, completely destitute. The theatre that burned in 1809 was the third to stand on that ground (incidentally, the first one burned down too, during the Great Fire of London in 1666). Sheridan, a … Continue reading Burning Down the House

The Royal Society

What do you do with your free time? Knit, bake, play Angry Birds, found societies of learning and intellectualism? Oh, you don’t do that last thing? That’s because you’re not a member of the Gresham College group which, in November 1660, formed The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. Today, the organisation is better known as the Royal Society, and it’s possibly the … Continue reading The Royal Society

A Real Knockout

It’s a day that every woman should celebrate: on 4 November, 1847 a distinguished Scottish physician named James Young Simpson discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform. Before long, Simpson—chair of Obstetrics and Midwifery at the University of Edinburgh and personal physician to Queen Victoria—would begin using his discovery to ease the pain of childbirth. Simpson was born in Bathgate, West Lothian, the youngest of seven … Continue reading A Real Knockout

What Date?

What day is it again? On September 14, 1752, Great Britain finally adopted the Gregorian calendar, adjusting the date in such a way that the previous 11 days were skipped entirely (the day before this was actually September 2). The Gregorian calendar wasn’t exactly a new invention. It was introduced in February 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII and was adopted later that year by a … Continue reading What Date?