In my last blog I asked the question do you want to be a princess. I touched on the castle in this so I thought I would present you with a castles word search this week. It should give you about 10 minutes of escapism, and yes I know there is a spelling mistake in it and extra points if you notice.
If you like the idea of finding out more about castles I can recommend 2 books. The first is by Marc Morris and is Castle: A History of the Buildings that Shaped Medieval Britain. This is a grown up book about castles. The second is Dark Knights and Dingy Castles by Terry Deary. This is a book for kids of all ages and is really funny.
Hopefully my brain should kick in and I should have a proper blog for you next week. Also I’m thinking of doing an ask a question blog at some point in the future so if you have and genealogy questions you want to ask please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You hear this saying quite a lot these days from little kids playing dress up to brides choosing a dress. But would you really have wanted to be a princess?
Well I would think no unless it’s in modern times. Let’s face it the life in castle would have stunk. The whole place would have smelt of wood smoke in the winter, which isn’t bad but factor in the food smells, the smelly of musty fabrics and furnishing it would be a bit bad. No add into the smell of the people and it would be gross. No deodorant, body wash and shampoo! If you stunk you had to change your clothes and send them off to be washed. Except in reality only your under linen shift would be washed. The top dress would probably never be cleaned. Now add in the smell of chamber pots and toilets if you’re lucky. Versailles in France the people of court used to got to the toilet in the corner of the room and just leave their doings on the floor. I don’t want to be a princess.
But it isn’t just the smells that would stop you from wanting to be a princess. Your life would be completely controlled. What you could learn, who your friends were and even what your interests were. So learning to sew, run a household and be a proper lady was high on the list of your day. Some princesses had more freedom than this, but not many.
If you’re Dad’s King (or brother etc), no choosing your own hubby, Daddy would do it for you and you would probably wouldn’t be too impressed. Lets consider the Tudor princess Mary Tudor the daughter of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Her big brother chose her first husband for her. He chose King Louis XII of France a 52 year old double widower for her. Mary was 18 years old. It was even worse for Isabella of Valois the daughter of King Charles VI of France. He married her off to the 29 year old widower King Richard II when she was 6 years old! So her you are packed off to another country (probably) to live with someone you’ve never met. Luckily you probably get to take your ladies with you, but they may also have been chosen for you. Mary Tudor had Anne Boleyn as a lady in waiting in France and she really didn’t like her.
Then there’s the little matter of woman’s duties. As wife of a monarch, heir to a throne or wife of a high ranking noble you had one job. Have children, in particular sons to carry on the line. Also you would probably have to put up with your spouse carrying on with his mistresses. Once you popped out your child if it was a boy – great celebration and if it was a girl your downfall may be plotted, think Anne Boleyn. If you were kept on as a wife then you would be expected to get pregnant again very quickly. Then was the fact you may well not survive childbirth. Also you may have been a child yourself when you gave birth. Queen Mary II was only 16 when she married her husband and possibly still 16 when she suffered a miscarriage. Now I know it was a different time but at 16 I was very much still a kid.
During your life as a princess you would be controlled by your father or other family member until you married and then controlled by your husband. Everything was controlled. Who you spent time with, what you wore (must look fashionable for your husband), what you did and even what happened to you. Think about Infanta Catalina of Aragon, later Queen Catherine of Aragon. She was sent away to marry, put aside by her husband and removed from court to a cold damp castle with no ladies and very little money and not allowed to see her daughter.
So still want to be a Princess? Maybe the expression should be changed to I want to be a Disney Princess.
So in August 1990 Tim Berners-Lee started to develop the world wide web. What’s that got to do with genealogy or history I hear you say but it does.
Pre tinternet (Yorkshire for Internet) can you imagine how much more difficult genealogy was. No quick look ups. It’s a road trip to a records office.
So I want to consider how the internet has helped my genealogy journey.
Now I’ve always known my family came from around the country but just consider how difficult my research would have been pre 1990. As a by thought just doing my degree in the late 1990’s/early 2000 I didn’t really use the internet, jeez I feel old. So off track there. So my research would have started at the records office in Sheffield, but that would have only got me so far. On my maternal side I would have found no records.
On my paternal side I would have got back quite a way. Then I would have had to travel further afield to both Rotherham and Barnsley as well as Chesterfield. Next stop would have been up to West Yorkshire and then North Yorkshire. So it works out at about one record office per generations and probably 2 as couples are not necessary from the same place. If you consider my twice great grandparents James was from Leeds and Mary was from Barnsley. So this couple would be a trip to Barnsley which is a 40 minute journey and Leeds is an hour.
Now comes the secret side of my paternal line. OK, I have ancestors from Lancashire (help Yorkshire lass). Well they started off in Cheshire before they came to Sheffield so next stop would have been the registry office in Chester which is a good couple of hours away, and then it would be up to Preston in Lancashire.
So onto my maternal side. First stops would be Peterborough and Norwich. From here we would be off to Ipswich, Lincoln London and Nottingham. I’d also need to travel north to both Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne. Also calling in at Glasgow, Carlisle and who knows where the records for the Isles of Scotland are. I sound like a train announcer.
Now consider what all this really means. It’s not just the travelling to the locations. You have to factor in that you would have to spend probably days in the records office. You would have to go through each parish register one by one. Just because your ancestors lived in one place doesn’t mean they were baptised or married there. Also if you think about it if the census says your ancestor was from Leeds, how many parish records would you have to troll through. Then their sibling’s records may not be in the same place so that’s more searching and there may be siblings you don’t know about. So you’re going to need to stay probably a few more days than you thought.
Then there are visits to where our ancestors lived. You may want to visit the church your ancestors were married or where they were buried.
So I decided to add you all the miles between home and the archives I would have to travel to for my research and it comes to approximately 1500 miles.
The cost soon adds up as does the amount of time. So the internet takes all this away. You sit at home and clickety click away and up pop your ancestors for you (not really easy but you know what I mean).
So you could say the internet along with the magnificent people who scan in the records and upload them, that Time Berners-Lee and the others have radically improved the process of tracing our families back through time. It also means I can watch youtube while I’m doing it, Count Duckula today I think!
Well we’ve had the monarch awards of England/Great Britain and Scotland/Great Britain. We’ve also had the consort awards for England/Great Britain. Now it’s the turn of the Scottish consorts.
Consorts whose children didn’t become monarch:
12 consorts of Scotland had no children become monarch. The first was Ethelreda of Northumbria the consort of the 6 month King, Duncan II. The last female consort to not have a child become monarch was Madeleine of Valois the consort of James V who died within 6 months of her marriage. There were no monarch heirs for 2 of the 3 male consorts, Francis II of France and the Earl of Bothwell, both consorts to Mary Queen of Scots.
Consorts who had more than on monarch/consort as children:
Two consorts have this accolade. Suthen the wife of Duncan I gave birth to King Malcolm III and King Donald III. Saint Margaret the second wife of King Malcolm III went one better than her mother in law and had 3 children become monarchs of Scotland in King Edgar, King Alexander I and King David I.
Consorts who had no children:
In the period 1000 to 1603 Scotland had 30 consorts. Of these 8 had no children or no surviving children with the monarch. Gruoch the wife of Macbeth didn’t have any children by him but her son did become King briefly. David II (1329-1371) was married twice to Joan of the Tower and Margaret Drummond. He had children by neither of them. The last consort not to have children by the monarch was King Francis II of France the husband of Mary Queen of Scots. You could say it was Mary’s third husband the Earl of Bothwell but she did have twins by him but she suffered a miscarriage.
Consorts to have the most children:
Well the winner is Elizabeth Mure the first wife of King Robert II. She gave him 10 children but she was never consort as she died before Robert became King. In second place was St Margaret who gave her husband King Malcolm III 8 children. If you include all the children a consort had by all her husbands than Joan Beaufort the consort of King James I wins. She had 8 children with James and 3 with her second husband the Black Knight of Lorne.
The consort who reigned the longest was Joan of the Tower. She was the consort of King David II and reigned for 33 years, 3 months and 1 day. The shortest reign was James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell who was consort to Mary Queen of Scots for 2 months and 20 days before Mary abdicated.
Age at accession:
The oldest lady to become consort was Arabella Drummond the wife of King Robert III. She was approximately 40 years old when her husband ascended the throne. The youngest was Joan of the Tower. She was 7 years and 11 months when she married the 4 year old King David II.
Number of Marriages:
Well not surprisingly the winner was a Tudor. Margaret Tudor was the older sister of King Henry VIII. She married King James IV in 1503 when she was 14 years old. After his death (1513) she married Archibald Douglas the 6th Earl of Angus in 1514 and divorced him in 1527. The following year she married Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven who she remained married to until her death in 1541, although she did want to divorce him but her son wouldn’t let her. So yet again a Tudor with multiple marriages.
Some other facts:
Of all the consorts 3 had siblings who were also consorts of European monarchs. Joan of England’s (Alexander II) sister Isabella was the consort of Emperor Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire. Margaret Tudor’s sister Mary was the consort of King Louis XII of France for 3 months before his death. Finally King Francis II of France consort of Mary Queen of Scots has 2 sisters who became consorts. Elizabeth of Valois married King Phillip II of Spain after the death of his 2nd wife Queen Mary of England and Margaret of Valois married the future King Henry IV of France.
The house of Valois was the family name of one branch of the French royal family. They provided 2 consorts to the Scottish monarchy. Madeleine was the consort of King James V and her nephew King Francis II who was consort to Mary Queen of Scots. They were related to the 2 Valois consorts of England in Isabella wife of King Richard II and Catherine wife of King Henry V and Owen Tudor. There common ancestor was King Charles V of France. Catherine and Isabella where his granddaughters, Madeleine was his 3 times great granddaughter and Francis was his 4 times great grandson.
In the same vein Joan of England was the paternal aunt of Margaret of England and the twice great aunt of Joan of the Tower. Margaret of England was the great Aunt of Joan of the Tower.
There were 3 male consorts to Scottish monarchs and all were the husbands of Mary Queen of Scots.
10 consorts were the children of European monarchs. 6 were the daughters of the English monarch, 2 of the Danish monarch and 2 were the children of the French monarch.
The pointless questions and their answers
The names of the British monarch’s consorts since 1707 are:
George, Caroline, Charlotte, Adelaide, Albert, Alexandria, Mary, Elizabeth and Philip.
The decade in which a monarch died from 1000 to 2000 were:
1060’s, 1090’s, 1120’s, 1130’s, 1230’s, 1280’s, 1270’s, 1320’s, 1360’s, 1370’s, 1380’s, 1400’s, 1440’s, 1460’s, 1540’s, 1530’s, 1560’s, 1570’s, 1610’s, 1660’s, 1700’s, 1720’s, 1730’s, 1810’s, 1820’s, 1840’s, 1860’s, 1920’s, 1950’s, 2000’s.
The consorts whose children (if they had any some of these listed didn’t) were never Monarch since 1154 are: Joan of England, Margaret of England, Yolande of Dreux, Joan of the Tower, Margaret Drummond, Euphemia de Ross, Madeleine of Valois, King France II of France and James Hepburn Earl of Bothwell, Catherine of Braganza the wife of Charles II. Mary of Modena the wife of James VII (II). Prince George of Denmark the husband of Queen Anne. Caroline of Brunswick the wife of George II. Caroline of Brandenburg the wife of George IV and finally Adelaide Saxe-Meiningen the wife of William IV.
If you want to read the other blogs in the monarchy awards you can find them at:
I got to thinking the other day about what major national and world events happened in our ancestors lives? What did they experience? So I thought I’d have a look at the events that happened in the birth decades of my ancestors.
Well with my maternal grandparents the biggest even was WW1. Grandpa was only 4 months old when his dad went off to war and 4 of his family never came home again.
In the 1920’s John Logie Baird first demonstrated the TV. Can you imagine what a revolution that was? Admittedly most people didn’t get TV’s in their homes until the 1950’s or 1960’s but even so the technological revolution had begun.
Great Grandparents 1870’s/1880’s/1890’s/1900’s
So the 1870’s brought the prototype of the telephone curtsey of Alexander Graham Bell (and others). It wasn’t until the 20th century that they entered people’s homes but the fact that one day you would be able to phone family and friends and not have to rely on letter must have been longed for by our ancestors.
In the 1883 the world saw the major destruction when the volcano Krakatoa erupted. Now in the UK this meant little unless you had family living in the area but for those with Australian ancestors the explosion was heard in Perth, Western Australian. Thousands died as a result of the explosion and the ash clouds and the world’s weather did change for several years due to the ash clouds.
In the late 1890’s the novel War of the Worlds by HG Wells was first published. It gave a view of what would happen if aliens invaded earth. What a different novel for our ancestors to read.
Then in the 1900’s saw the death of Queen Victoria. She had reigned over the country for 63 years. How did our ancestors feel and did they worry how the country would change in the reign of her son King Edward VII the notorious playboy.
Great great Grandparents 1840’s/1850’s/1860’s
In 1842 an act was passed that very likely impacted on the lives of your ancestors, especially in coal mining areas. The Mines Act stated that no females could work underground at the coal face and also no children under 10 years old could work under ground. This act was passed after 26 boys and girls died in Silkstone, West Riding of Yorkshire after the mines ventilation shaft flooded. It did mean some families lost valuable income. It didn’t help the 3 10 year old boys and one 4 year old along with 36 men who died when the Garden Pit in Landshipping, Pembokeshire died when the mine flooded. The mine was owned by the local conservative MP whose party passed the act!
The big event of the 1850’s was the Crimean War. The Russians tried to move into the Ottoman Empires lands and war began. Britain sided with the Ottoman’s along with French amongst others. Much of the war took place in modern day Ukraine. The most famous battle for the British was the Battle of Balaclava and the Charge of the Light Brigade when 278 men from a regiment of 700 were killed.
By the 1860’s our sea fairing ancestors got the Suez Canal in Egypt. This meant no longer would ships have to sail all the way round Africa to get to the Indies and Australia. They could sail through the Mediterranean and in to the Indian Ocean. This meant faster sailing times and tea getting to our tables much quicker.
Great great great Grandparents 1800’s/1810’s/1820’s/1830’s
So in 1801 the road locomotive took to the street of London for the first time. It was a steam engine one wheels that could carry 6 passengers and was called the Puffing Devil. It was developed by Richard Trevithick the Cornish inventor and engineer. Think a steam powered mini bus sort of.
Mines got safer in 1815 thanks to Sir Humphrey Davy. Just as a side I met him once. He gave a talk alongside Jonny Ball and Marie Curie at Hallam University (they may have been actors except Jonny Ball). Davy developed the miner’s lamp which stopped methane from the burning flame entering the atmosphere and thus stopped mine explosions. So safety increased, if they had the lamps and not just the candles which were causing the explosions.
In 1825 the Stockton and Darlington Railway was opened. It was the world’s first public railway. People travelled in open carriages. It paved the way for rolling the railway network out across country and thus meant our ancestors could travel more easily.
Now for genealogists the Marriage act of 1836 was a big thing. Before the act couples had to marry in either a Church of England church, a Synagogue or a Quaker Church. The act allowed people to marry by civil ceremonies meaning marriages could take place in all other religious chapels, such as Baptist and Methodist as well as Registry Offices which was great for those who the established church wouldn’t marry such as those who put the cart before the horse so to speak, hi ancestors! The Act also meant that from the 1st January 1837 marriage certificates were given and thus made the life of the genealogist so much easier.
So although these events may or may not have impacted directly on our ancestors they did affect the world they lived in and some made the lived of the descendent better.
A couple of months ago I held the Monarchy awards for the Monarchs of England/Great Britain as a result of watching an episode of Pointless Celebrities. So I decided to answer the same questions for the monarch of Scotland from the year 1000 up until the merger of the thrones with King James VI (of Scotland I of England) in 1603.
Monarchs not succeeded by their children:
Scotland has had 14 monarchs who were not directly succeeded by their children. The first was King Malcolm II (1005 – 1034). He was succeeded by his grandson Duncan I. Malcolm had only daughters and Duncan was the son of his eldest daughter Bethoc and her husband Crinan the Thane. Duncan I himself was not immediately succeeded by his sons but they had to get rid of Macbeth first. The last of the Scottish monarchs not to be succeeded by a child was David II (1329 – 1371). Despite 2 marriages David never had any children so he was succeeded by his nephew Robert II.
Monarchs succeeded by more than one child:
Only 2 of the Scottish monarchs have this accolade. The first was Duncan I (1034 – 1040). Duncan died in battle against Macbeth who then became king followed briefly by his stepson Lulach. Lulach was killed and Duncan I eldest son became King Malcolm III (1058 – 1093). His brother Donald III later also became king (1093 – 1097) with a brief break when Malcolm III son Duncan was king. The second monarch was King Malcolm III. 4 of his sons became King of the Scots. They were Duncan II (1094), Edgar (1097 – 1107), Alexander I (1107 – 1124) and David I (1124 – 1153).
Monarchs with no children:
Of the 27 monarchs of Scotland from 100 to 1603 7 had no children. 3 were the children on Malcolm III. One was the famous Macbeth, although he did have a stepson who succeeded him. Then there was Malcolm II and finally Queen Margaret but she was only 3 when she came to the throne and 7 when she died.
Monarchs with most children:
The records with the Scottish monarchs goes to King Robert II (1371 – 1390). With his wife Elizabeth Mure they had 10 children. After Elizabeth died he married Euphemia de Ross and had a further 4 children. He is also alleged to have had at least 13 illegitimate children.
The longest Scottish reigning monarch was James VI. He was king of Scotland from 1567 until 1625. In total he was King for 57 years, 8 months and 4 days.
The shortest reign was King Duncan II. He was king for 6 months in 1097 when he temporarily usurped his Uncle who assumed the throne when Duncan II’s father died.
Age at Accession:
In 1093 Donald III to the crown of Scotland when his brother died usurping the rightful heir Duncan II. Donald was approximately 61 years old.
The youngest person to become monarch of Scotland was Mary Queen of Scots. She was just 6 days old when her father King James V died and she became Queen.
Number of Marriages:
Well the winner in this category is Mary Queen of Scots. She was married 3 times and widowed twice. He first husband was the dauphin of France Francis who would become Francis II of France, thus making Mary Queen consort of France as well as Queen of Scotland. After Francis death aged 16 in 1560, 18 year old Mary returned to Scotland. In 1565 she married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. He died in an explosion in February 1567 (probably murdered on Mary’s order or by James Hepburn) leaving her widowed again with a young son. She next married (possibly by force) James Hepburn the Earl of Bothwell in May 1567. It was a combination of the murder of Lord Darnley and her marriage to James Hepburn that lead to her being forced to abdicate. What was it with those of Tudor descent? Mary was the great Granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, the sister of King Henry VIII of England.
The pointless questions and their answers
The names of the British monarchs since 1707 are: Anne, George, William, Victoria, Edward and Elizabeth.
The decade in which a monarch died from 1000 to 2000 were:
1030’s, 1040’s, 1050’s, 1090’s, 1100’s, 1120’s, 1150’s, 1160’s, 1210’s, 1240’s, 1280’s, 1290’s, 1310’ , 1320’s, 1370’s, 1390’s, 1400’s, 1430’s, 1460’s, 1480’s, 1510’s, 1540’s, 1580’s, 1620’s, 1640’s, 1680’s, 1690’s, 1700’s, 1710’s, 1720’s, 1760’s, 1820’s, 1830’s, 1900’s, 1910’s, 1930’s, 1950’s, 1970’s.
The monarchs who were never succeeded by their offspring since 1154 are:
Malcolm IV (brother William I), Alexander III (granddaughter Margaret), Margaret (John Balliol chosen by nobility), Charles II (brother James II), Anne (cousin George I), George II (grandson George III), George VI (brother William IV), William IV (niece Victoria), Edward VIII (brother George VI).
If you want to read the other blogs in the monarchy awards you can find them at:
Its 804 years ago since the Magna Carta was signed in England. This was the great charter that was supposed to limit the power of the monarch and it did, sort of.
So what’s the background? Well it’s fair to say King John (27 May 1199 to 19 October 1216) was not the most popular King. Think the tales of Robin Hood and the Prince John character. The nobles of the country really didn’t like him and during his reign they tried to get rid of him. Some wanted to replace him with his nephew Arthur the son of his late older brother Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany. John got passed that by having Arthur imprisoned and possibly murdered when he was 16 years old.
Next the barons tried to replace John with his nephew by marriage Prince Louis of France. He was the husband of Blanche of Castile who was the daughter of King Alfonso VIII of Castile and his consort Eleanor of England (John’s sister). Big problem, Louis was the heir to the French throne (he would later become King Louis VIII of France and really the barons didn’t want England to fall into the hands of the French.
In June 1215 the barons entered London with the support of both Prince Louis and the Scottish King Alexander II. The plan was to force John to recognise their rights and implement the Charters of Liberties. This was signed in 1100 by King Henry I. In basic terms this charter meant the King had to recognise all laws regarding the nobles such as the right of succession of sons, the rights of noble women to marry and that the crown could force nobles to stand trial for crimes they committed. It also protected the church in that the crown could not take property from them.
King John basically thought he was above the laws of the land. He was taking what he wanted and doing what he wanted when he wanted. Something had to be done so the barons drew up the Magna Carter (great charter). On the 15th June 1215 the barons met King John at Runnymede on the banks of the river Thames. It was here that the Magna Carta was signed. In a sense it was a peace treaty between the crown and the nobles. Still neither side trusted the other, and several days after it was signed the King was already going against the act and trying to get out of it.
Now the sticking point was clause 61 which said that an elected council of nobles was to be put in place to keep an eye on the king. The king didn’t like this one bit so a matter of days after he signed the charter he started to go against it. He ran to the Pope (metaphorically) for help. He told the Pope he was forced to sign it and planted the idea that if they could do that to a King what would they do to the church? The Pope agreed and said he would excommunicate the barons. This lead to the barons taking up arms and the Barons War ensued. This went on until October 2016 when King John died and rumbled on until 1225.
The new King Henry III was John’s son. He was 9 when he ascended the throne and so the country was ruled by his guardians. Once he was old enough he promised to uphold the Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta still has prominence today. In the UK of the 63 clauses in the original document some are still in place today. These are:
Clause 1: “FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church's elections - a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it - and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity.”
Clause 13: “The city of London shall enjoy all its ancient liberties and free customs, both by land and by water. We also will and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall enjoy all their liberties and free customs.”
Clause 39: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”
Clause 40: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”
All taken from: https://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/magna-carta-what-magna-carta/key-clauses-magna-carta
In the USA the Magna Carta played a large part in the drawing up of the Constitution.
So It may have happened 804 years ago but it is still relevant today, and if you want to see one of the 4 original documents then you can see them at the British Library (2 copies), Salisbury Cathedral or Lincoln Castle. I’ve seen it and whoever wrote it down had the smallest writing I’ve ever seen.
Yesterday marked the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings on the Normandy coast during WW2 named Operation Overlord. I’m sure you’ve read and seen loads about this so I thought I’d look at it from a different view point. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Normandy several times and visit the D Day beaches and location important to the operation. So I thought I’d talk about that.
The last time I went to Normandy was 10 years ago just after the 65th Anniversary. We stayed somewhere near Bayeux. The first time I went was in the early 1990’s when I wasn’t even a teenager yet.
One of my favourite places is Arromanches – Sur – Basin or Arromanches as it’s usually called. It’s on the coast where the landing beach code named Gold is. It’s where one of the Mulberry harbours was built by the British forces. Some of the harbour still exists in the sea and the beach. I have fond memories of my visit in the early 90’s eating ice cream sitting on the sea wall with my new cuddly wolf (called Bro) I’d just got looking at the remains of the harbour. Despite everything that had happened there it was just a great day. The last time I went the anniversary flags were still up but it still felt like a happy seaside town.
I also liked the village of Sainte – Mere – Eglise. It was really pretty with pots full of flowers surrounding the church. It was here that an American 505th parachute regiment landed. Except it went a bit wrong for John Steele. He kind of got stuck on the church steeple and was dangling from it. He played dead for hours but the Germans eventually captured him, he escaped and got back to his regiment and survived the war. If you go there you can see a dummy hanging from a parachute from the church.
Another pretty village is that of Ranville. There is a large commonwealth cemetery there. The cemetery is tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, as are all Commonwealth war cemeteries, with each grave having its own plants. This village lead to much hilarity in our family. Now my French is non existent, I was scared of one of the French teacher at school so I did German. My map reading skills are brilliant (well I think so). I saw a sign which I thought said the cemetery and followed it. It was a bit of a surprise when were arrived at the cement works just outside the town. Cimenterie (cement works), cimetière for cemetery, you can see where I went wrong. Mind you it gets worse as not far from Ranvillie is the town of Ouistreham. This is where the ferry between Caen and Portsmouth comes in. We were looking for a car park and I found one, it was the ferry queue!
I also like the town of Bayeux. We went to see the tapestry, which was alright I suppose, or right I found it disappointing and small (I'm bias though as my ancestor Lady Elizabeth Wardle and her ladies made a replica which is in Reading Museum). I did like the Commonwealth cemetery though. It has a great feature of the memorial wall on one side and the graves on the other with a D road going straight through the middle (D roads are like B roads in the UK). There are also German graves here as well. There is a museum next to the cemetery which has 2 tanks outside. 10 years ago there was a bird using the tank’s gun barrel as a nest. I found that so wonderful. Something that caused death being used to raise life.
Now one thing my visits to Normandy showed me is the differences between the cemeteries. Commonwealth ones are peaceful with plants by each grave. The German ones were mostly being looked after the people of the place they were in. The American sites very regimented with no flowers by the graves but just rows and rows of straight lines. In all of them though it was very evident that the fallen were well looked after and honoured. The American cemeteries had active soldiers on duty there to honour there fallen comrades and assist the public. It was at the site of Ponte du Hoc where the Rangers scaled the 100 foot high cliffs under heavy fire that I also had a moment. There was a tour group in with Rangers assisting them. There was one Ranger, he was really tall and looked fantastic in his uniform and knee length brown boots. Me being me asked him if I could have them to which he smiled at me and said “sorry mam”.
So despite what happened on that coast of France it’s still a lovely place which we can visit thanks to the effort and sacrifice of the soldiers who fought there on D Day 75 years ago.
So as we move into June we start to think about sunny days, warm weather, the sound of leather on willow and lazy days. It’s Britain so let’s amend that to cloudy days, mild weather and the sound of rain on covers or sky’s so blue it’s unbelievable and it’s too hot to move. All this means its holiday season. Jetting off to far of places or staying in the UK, which ever you do it will be really different from the holidays of our ancestors.
Let’s start off with the obvious. May of our ancestors will never have had a holiday in their lives. They probably only had Sundays as a day of rest, but probably worked at home on this day.
So off to the seaside then. The main places to develop in the Victorian era as holiday places were Blackpool, Scarborough, Ramsgate and Brighton. Llandudno and Rhyl were the places to go in Wales.
Now we don our short and t shirts for a beach outing but think of our ancestor. They wore their everyday clothes or even their Sunday best. Men in 3 piece suits and women in so many layers they could virtually stand up without needing their legs. Can you imagine how hot they were?
They may have worn a straw bonnet instead of the normal hat but that would have been the only nod to the beach.
So they needed to cool down. What better way than an ice cream. No cone and lovely flavours for our ancestors though. You got a penny lick. Now this was a solid glass which had a small indentation on the top which would hold a small amount of ice cream. You paid your penny, ate your ice cream and gave the glass back. If you were really lucky the glass may have been rinsed before you got it, but not always. Think of it like hundreds of people sharing a spoon, gross.
Perhaps a donkey ride across the beach? These rides began in the Victorian era and continue to this day at Blackpool amongst others. The wind in their hair as the donkey trotted (well slowly walked) along the sand.
The best way to cool off was probably a dip in the sea. What better way. Not for me, seaweed, crabs, fish no thank you. Apparently you’re not supposed to squeal and run out of the sea claiming something touched your foot! Why? But not just a normal dip in the sea for our ancestors there was etiquette to consider. You had to be correctly dressed.
Ladies wore full length dresses to begin with made from a non transparent fabric and weighted at the hem so it wouldn’t float up and show an ankle, the horror! Later into the Victorian era women began to wear a pair of bloomers with a short dress over the top. Modesty at all times. Men began by wearing what looked like woollen long johns from ankle to wrist. Over time these became shorter and looked more like a modern ladies racing swimsuit. I’ve got a photo somewhere of my Grandpa in a thigh length bathing suit that when it got wet stretched out of all shape.
But I hear you cry how did they change? Well the answer was one of two ways. There was the bathing machine. This was effectively a garden shed on wheels. You went inside and got changed and then stepped out in you bathing attire. Some were wheeled from the promenade to the sea so you stepped out into the sea and then when you were done you were returned to dry land. It was usually only the rich who were taken into the sea. You could also use a sort of beach tent thing. We had one. It was like a huge towel with a hole in the top for your head. You simply got changed underneath it. Surfers use them these days to get out of wet suits. Another way ladies got around the need for a changing room was to use the bell dress type thing.
I’ll be honest it looks more like a drowning aid than a swimming dress.
So this summer when you’re lying on the beach in your chosen attire think of your Victorian ancestors and be grateful no to have to wear a suit or crinoline.
On the 24th May 1819 a baby girl was born who would live through one of the most developing periods in our country’s history. That little girl was Alexandrina Victoria the daughter of the Duke of Kent and the granddaughter of King George III. She was of course Queen Victoria.
It wasn’t such a great period of change for the Queen but also to a greater extent for our ancestor.
Can you imagine how life changed for our ancestors? In 1837 most of our ancestors will have lead very simple lives where their sole priority would have been the survival of them and their family. They literally worked to live. By the end of the Victorian era this would have started to change.
So what did change? I suppose what didn’t.
The Victorian era saw the introduction of the bicycle, trains became much more common and planes were not too far off. Then there was the steam ship and faster journey times.
The first post boxes arrived on the streets of Britain in 1859. They were green in colour and spread through the land. This meant you could post your letters easily and without anyone else knowing who you’re writing to. This was a great invention as before you would have had to go into the post office and hand over your letter. The first stamp appeared in 1840 with the penny black.
Easter eggs appeared in 1873 made by Fry’s chocolate and look how well they took off. Also jelly babies. They started in Lancashire in the 1860’s but then they were made in Sheffield by Bassets. They still exist today. Do you bite of the head or the feet first?
Close to my families heart comes and invention from 1846, the sewing machine. I have a lot of dressmakers and seamstresses in my ancestry. How much did life change for them. No longer did they have to sew garments by hand. The sewing machine would mean hems could be sewn in record time. This would have meant they could make garments faster and thus make more so more income. This did mean that anyone could buy a sewing machine after Signer perfected the design but you had to have the skill to use it.
The Bessemer converter. A big invention for my home town of Sheffield. This lead to the development of strong light steel. It also lead to people flocking to the city to live for the jobs the steel works provided. A big change if you’ve lived in the countryside all your life.
Not exactly but electric lighting was introduced and lightbulbs. Admittedly not many of our ancestors will have used them due to the cost, but it gave hope that one day they wouldn’t have to use candles and smelly oil lamps anymore. Then with the development of hydroelectric it became even cheaper to produce.
The Victorian ear saw the invention of the phonograph and the gramophone. So things could be recorded on the phonograph and played back on the gramophone. No more musically evenings round the piano forte! Also by the end of the era the radio was newly developed.
Now our ancestors, if they could afford it, could take to family and friends throughout the land.
So as the period developed so too did what our ancestors had access to. Some would have been dreams they could only wish for whereas others other would have revolutionised their lives. So know if someone asks what the Victorian era did for our ancestors you have some facts to offer them.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!