Elizabeth I
Posted: 18 October 2010 in Kings & Queens
Tags: medieval ruler, spanish armada, tudor dynasty
Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth was born on 7 September 1533 at Greenwich Palace. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Like another of his many wives, Anne Boleyn was to discover that being married to Henry VIII was not good for her long term health. Henry was desirous of a male heir, and the birth of Elizabeth had been a disappointment to him. After the birth of a stillborn son, Anne was arrested on trumped up charges of adultery, and executed on 19 May 1536. So within three years of her birth, Elizabeth’s mother was dead, and she herself was excluded from succession to the throne after being declared illegitimate. (more…)

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Martin Luther
Posted: 15 October 2010 in Religious Personalities
Tags: europe, holy roman empire, papal bull, protestantism, reformation
Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Martin Luther was born on 10 November 1483 at Eisleben in Germany. His parents were  Hans and Margaretha Luther. The year following his birth, Luther’s family moved to Mansfeld, where his father owned the lease on a copper mine. When seven years of age he was sent to school in Mansfield, and there remained until he was fourteen. He then moved to a school in Magdeburg, where he sojourned for only a year, before moving again, and completing his schooling in Eisenach.

He entered the University of Erfurt in 1501, and graduated four years later. At this time in his life Luther was on course to become a lawyer; an occupation which, for many years past, his father had been intending for him. These carefully laid plans were upset when Luther found himself caught in a violent thunder storm, and narrowly escaped death when a bolt of lightning struck the ground just a few yards from where he was riding. In the heat of the moment he vowed to become a monk if he survived the storm, and subsequently felt himself obliged to abide by the vow. (more…)

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Charlemagne
Posted: 13 October 2010 in Kings & Queens, Military Leaders
Tags: europe, holy roman empire, medieval ruler
Charlemagne

Charlemagne

Charlemagne is believed to have been born in 742, the eldest son of Pepin the Short and Bertrada of Laon. Not much is known of his early life prior to the death of his father in 768, at which time the Frankish kingdom was split between Charlemagne and Carloman, his brother. A little over three years later Carloman was dead, having died of unknown causes, and the Frankish kingdom was again united under Charlemagne.

In 772 Charlemagne moved to secure his northern border, and led a campaign against the Saxons. The Saxons still being pagan at the time, he was able to present this campaign as being an attempt to extend the reach of Christian civilisation. Thus began a thirty year campaign which saw Charlemagne extend his rule across much of Western Europe, culminating in his coronation as Emperor of the Romans in 800AD. The latter being an obvious reference back to an earlier empire, which had in fact collapsed more than three hundred years previously. (more…)

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Galileo Galilei
Posted: 11 October 2010 in Inventors, Scientists
Tags: astronomy, galileo, heliocentric, physicist
Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei

Galileo is perhaps one of just four scientists in history ever to have become household names in the English speaking world. The other three, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein can probably be bracketed together as pure scientists. Galileo, on the other hand, was an inventor, as well as a scientist.

Born on 15 February 1564, at Pisa in Italy, his father was Vincenzo Galilei. Although now remembered primarily as a musician, the latter was also no mean physicist himself, and made lasting contributions in the field of physics.

It might seem odd to some today, the Galilei family, including Galileo himself, were all devoutly religious people. Admittedly, that did not prevent Galileo fathering three illegitimate children by a woman he met in Venice and who subsequently lived with him in Padua. As was common at the time, (more…)

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Oliver Cromwell
Posted: 9 October 2010 in Military Leaders, Politicians, Religious Personalities
Tags: british politics, Charles I, Charles II, democracy, English Civil War, lord protector, Oliver Cromwell, Parliament
Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell was born on 25 April 1599, in Huntingdon, not far from Cambridge. He was directly descended from Catherine Cromwell, a sister of Thomas Cromwell, one of the many associates Henry VIII had executed after they had fallen into disfavour. His father Robert was the younger son of a knight, but, as the younger son, he was not heir to his father’s fortune. So Oliver Cromwell’s family, although not poverty stricken, was not well off considering its ancestry. Robert Cromwell’s income has been estimated at around £300 a year, which at the time was still an appreciable sum.

Cromwell was educated at Huntingdon Grammar School, which still exists today, and then at Sidney Sussex College Cambridge. It was there that he first fell under the influence of Puritanism, although without being immediately converted to it. He left Cambridge in 1617, without taking a degree, after the death of his father. He married in 1620 to Elizabeth Boucher, the daughter of Sir James Boucher, a London leather merchant. This gave Oliver, and his family, some influence in society, and they were also able to exercise influence through his grandfather. The latter lived in a stately home, and regularly entertained royalty. (more…)

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Sir Winston Churchill
Posted: 20 April 2009 in Politicians
Tags: british politics, conservative mp, second world war, war leaders, winston churchill
Sir Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill

Winston Spencer Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, on 30th November 1874. He was the son of Lord Randolph Churchill and Jennifer Jerome, the daughter of an American millionaire. He was educated at St George’s School at Ascot, Brunswick School in Hove, and lastly at Harrow School in West London. His academic career was not particularly distinguished, and he twice failed the entrance exam to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, before before succeeding at the third attempt. He clearly had more interest in the Army than in academic study, because when he graduated in 1894 he came eighth out of a hundred and fifty of his classmates. He then became a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. Between 1895 and 1898 he was involved in three campaigns, including the Spanish war with Cuba, a campaign on the North West Frontier of India and a campaign in the Sudan. During this time he was also acting as a war correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, and managed to find time to write a couple of books based upon his experiences in the army. As a result he came to public notice for the first time. (more…)

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