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The Wife Who Survived Henry ..
It was a brave women who, in July 1543, married Henry VIII.
Did Katherine Parr’s nerves ever fail her?
Certainly she took three months to agree to the King’s proposal, even though she must have known Henry’s wish amounted to a command.
The King’s marital career had been less than happy.
Only a year earlier, he had executed 21-year-old Catherine Howard, the second of his wives to suffer such a fate.
More than that, Katherine herself was in love with another man.
Ruthless, egotistical and capable of great cruelty, Henry was a daunting proposition.
At 51, he was more than 20 years older than Katherine, who had already been widowed twice.

Henry suffered from bone disease in his legs, probably brought about by jousting injuries, and his weight did not help.
Katherine was married to Henry for less than four years.
History remembers her as the wife who ‘survived’ Henry.
During her time as Queen, her public prominence was high.
But her decision to marry her old flame, Thomas Seymour, within months of Henry’s death did much to undermine her reputation.
After her death from fever in 1548, following the birth of her only child, the 36-year-old Queen was quickly forgotten.

Atilla The Hun, 406 – 453 ..
The man known as “The Scourge of God” inherited his throne in modern day Hungary in AD 434.
He began his rule by slaughtering Goth tribes in modern day Germany and Austria, then attacked the enfeebled Roman empire.
At one point Atilla offered to marry the Western Emperor’s sister, but made it clear that the dowry would be half her brother’s lands.
This splendid offer was refused.
The whole breadth of Europe was at once invaded, and occupied and desolated, by the myriads of barbarians whom Atilla led into the field.
Atilla ruled territories from Germany to the Caspian Sea for almost 20 years.
On his wedding night, he drank heavily and passed out.
Whether it was a nosebleed or a rupture, Atilla choked to death on his own blood.

The Greatest Queen In English History ..
Quite simply, Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) was the greatest queen in English history, who during her reign saw off the threat posed by Mary Queen of Scots and a string of Catholic conspiracies.
It’s hard to conjure up today the depth and darkness of politics at the time.
This really was a man’s world, and yet she managed to not only survive it, but ride it, help repel the threat from Spain posed by the Armada and leave the nation more powerful than at any previous time in its history.

The Gallant She-Soldier ..
Since Army records began in the 16th Century, it is astonishing how many ordinary women, many with children, deserted their families, bound their breasts and disguised themselves as men to go into battle.
In 1655, a ballad called The Gallant She-Soldier commemorated one Private Clarke for ‘Thinking herself the luckiest of women, to meet the noblest of deaths’.
At least 100 women fought incognito at the battles of Blenheim and Waterloo.
One of Wellington’s best foot soldiers was Phoebe Hessell, a former maid who had fooled her male comrades-in-arms for 11 years.

They hang the man, and flog the woman,
That steals the goose from off the common.
But let the greater villain loose,
That steals the common off the goose.
( A 17th Century Protest Rhyme )

The Rich Stole The Common ..
How far back do we have to go to reach a point where land in Britain was held in common?
The builder of the first fence was effectively the first squatter.
Only by force of might, and the complicity of other fencers, would their enclosures come to be regarded as personal property.
In April 1649, a group of dispossessed Roundhead soldiers set up camp on common land at St. Georges Hill, Weybridge, Surrey.
It was their belief that the Earth was a common treasury for all to share, and they worked towards the foundation of a self-sufficient community.
Within five months, and after repeated mob attacks, soldiers forcibly evicted the camp by order of the courts.
The common land, designated as such to provide for the many, had become the preserve of the wealthy few.
At St. George’s Hill more than 360 years on, property averages £3 million, and the government still seeks to outlaw those too impoverished to be landowners or tenants.
How can the need for shelter be a criminal act?
In 2009 there were more than 725,000 empty homes in England.

When Night Fell, So Did The Darkness ..
For almost the entire history of mankind, our only reliable and effective source of light was the sun.
When night fell, so did the darkness.
Good folk had to lie a-quivering in their beds, their homes firmly locked and steadfastly guarded, while watchmen patrolled curfewed streets roamed only by thieves and the ladies of the night.
Things began to change only in the 19th Century when cities in Europe and America began to be illuminated by gaslight.
Meanwhile, a host of inventors and scientists were exploring ways to harness electricity for energy.
It was Thomas Edison who emerged from the pack to claim the glory for developing the lightbulb in 1879.
Electrification was a gradual process.
By the start of the First World War, only one in seven American homes had electrical power, but it steadily gained pace so that now two-thirds of the world is on an electrical grid.

The Angel Of Death ..
To patients she was the nurse known as “Jolly Jane” because of her happy, helpful demeanour on the ward.
But Jane Toppan, born in 1857, preferred to call herself “The Angel of Death” or “the dispenser of mortal relief” and is believed to have snuffed out the lives of more than 70 vulnerable victims.
The daughter of an insane father, Jane grew up in orphanages in Boston, Massachusetts, before going to nursing college, where staff noted her morbid interest in autopsy photos.
But they didn’t realise she was using her learning to conduct experiments on patients she didn’t like, altering prescribed dosages to see what the effects were and using drugs to control consciousness.
By the time she graduated, Jane knew everything about killing and in 1889 set off on her murder spree.
In a Boston hospital, she gave morphine injections to 31 patients.
After administering the drug she would lie in bed and hold them as they died, later claiming she got a sexual thrill from people near death.
In 1901, she moved in with elderly Alden Davis to care for him after his wife died (in fact, Toppan murdered her).
Within weeks, she’d killed Davis and his two daughters.
It was her downfall as an autopsy revealed poison.
In October 1901, “Jolly Jane” confessed to 11 murders, saying she wanted to go down in history for “killing more people – helpless people – than any other man or woman who ever lived”.
Declared insane, she was committed to Taunton Insane Hospital for life.
She died in 1938, aged 84.

Alexander The Great, 356 – 323 BC ..
At different times, Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar and Caligula all visited Alexander’s glass tomb in Alexandria, Egypt.
Augustus kissed the ancient corpse and accidentally broke the nose.
Caligula stole Alexander’s breastplate.
Alexander was born a prince of Macedonia and was tutored by Aristotle.
By the age of 22, he had conquered Greece and set sail to Asia Minor.
Here, in what is now central Turkey, he cut in half the famous Gordian Knot, fulfilling a Greek legend that whoever unravelled it would rule the world.
In Syria, he destroyed the armies of Darius 111 and gained control of the entire Eastern Mediterranean coast.
He entered Egypt as a liberator.
From there, he fought in India, where his legendary horse Bucephalus was killed.
He was still on campaign at the age of 33 when a fever destroyed his health.
At the time his empire stretched from Greece to northern India.

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