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

Enough is Enough

Peace at last (for the time being)! On August 5, 910, the last major army sent by the Danes to raid England was defeated at the Battle of Tettenhall, near modern-day Wolverhampton. Frequent Danish raids over the preceding centuries had placed significant parts of Northeast England under their control. Although they attempted to attack areas in central England, they were resisted by Alfred the Great … Continue reading Enough is Enough

Great Britain, Round I

Most of us believe that England, Scotland, and Wales were united and became Great Britain in the 18th century, but surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time these lands were united under a single ruler. All the way back in the dark ages of the 10th century, an English king named Aethelstan managed to pull the three territories together, and the process started on July 12, … Continue reading Great Britain, Round I

Queen for a Week

On July 10, 1553, 16-year-old Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England, four days after the death of her cousin, Edward VI. The reign, as I’m sure you all know, didn’t go well. Jane’s claim to the throne was through her grandmother, Mary Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII. Mary married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and one of their daughters was Jane’s mother. Her … Continue reading Queen for a Week

Better Luck Next Time

The fourth time was not a charm for Henry VIII, who annulled his marriage to Anne of Cleves on July 9, 1540 on the grounds of non-consummation. Even as royal arranged marriages go, this one is famous for being a disaster. Henry agreed to the marriage before even meeting Anne face-to-face, instead relying on a portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger. Although popularly thought to … Continue reading Better Luck Next Time

Two Crowns

Care for a coronation? On July 6 two of England’s most famous (and infamous) kings ascended the throne or were crowned. First, in 1189, was Richard the Lionheart, who’s become legendary for his military prowess (which, in some cases, was particularly brutal). The road to the throne was a rocky one: Richard was involved in several rebellions against his father, Henry II, in an effort … Continue reading Two Crowns

Warrior King

On June 27, 1743, King George II became the last King of England to lead his troops in battle, when he guided them to victory against the French at the Battle of Dettingen during the War of the Austrian Succession. Once upon a time, kings were expected to be warriors, and the military exploits of many English kings have become legendary (think Henry V at … Continue reading Warrior King

The Great Charter

On June 15, 1215, King John of England put his seal to the Magna Carta in the meadow at Runnymede, after months of negotiations with his rebellious barons. The Magna Carta was the first document forced on an English king by his subjects that basically said he couldn’t do whatever the hell he wanted. In return, the barons renewed their oaths of fealty to John … Continue reading The Great Charter

The Viking Invasion

On June 8 (or thereabouts) in 793, Vikings raided the monastery of Lindisfarne in the northeast of England, spreading terror throughout Britain and ushering in the Viking Age of Invasion. For almost 300 years, the Vikings would continue to invade Britain, which was, at the time, fractured into several different kingdoms, none of which were really strong enough to repel the well-trained, well-prepared invaders. Early … Continue reading The Viking Invasion

The Beginning of the End

May 15 was the beginning of the end for a pair of 16th century queens. First, in 1536, Anne Boleyn was brought to trial on (almost certainly) bogus charges of adultery and incest and found guilty. Her brother, George Boleyn, who was accused of having a sexual relationship with her, was tried separately the same day and also found guilty. The trials came a day … Continue reading The Beginning of the End