William Wallace – a brave rebel at heart

The Scottish army led by rebellious Scottish nobleman William Wallace defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge 1297. Wallace’s Memorial in Stirling comemorates the above event as well as it’s an icon of Scottish pride.

Made world famous by the film Braveheart (portrayed by actor Mel Gibson), William Wallace was voted the second greatest Scotsman of all times (right behind poet Robert Burns).

As one of the rebellious noblemen who refused to be loyal to English King Edward I, Wallace led his army in a victorious battle at Stirling in 1297. As a result of the victory, Wallace was made a Guardian of Scotland. He resigned this position after the Battle of Falkirk in 1298 where Edward I took control of the battle.

Wallace had to escape and hide for several years. He was caught in Glasgow in 1305 and sent for a trial to London. He was found guilty for treason. They hanged and quartered Wallace. His head was put on a spike on London Bridge, four parts of his body were sent to Berwick, Newcastle, Perth and Stirling.

GR8 to Know

“Wallace” means “Welshman” in Old English, it may refer to his ancestors coming from Wales, however, there is no evidence about it.

Featured image: Wallace Memorial in Stirling (credit to Linda N.)

Battle for life: Lord Horatio Nelson

The “admiral of admirals” is truly one of Britain’s greatest heroes. Actually, his whole life was a battle since he ad to survive several diseases from malaria to scurvy.

Although Nelson had been out to sea since childhood, he suffered from seasickness through his life.
Nelson had suffered several injuries and wounds in battles

  • he lost his right eye in the Siege of Calvi (1794) – “I have only one eye, I have a right to be blind sometimes” – Lord Horatio Nelson
  • he was shot in the arm in the Battle of Tenerife (1797), an arm which was amputated soon after the shot
    According to the doctors diary Nelson wanted no anaesthetic but a heated knife since “cold knives are more painful.”

As a great tactic, he had commanded the British Navy from 1784 to 1805, when he was shot dead in the Battle of Trafalgar. His body was preserved in brandy and taken to London. The streets of the City had seen no such mourning before. Admiral Nelson’s body was placed in a coffin down St Paul’s Cathedral’s Crypt.

“England expects that every man will do his duty” – Lord Horatio Nelson.

Name: Horatio Nelson
Rank/Titles: Vice-Admiral of the White; 1st Vicount Nelson; 1st Duke of Bronté
Birth: 29 Sept. 1758, Burnham Thorpe, ENG
Death: 21 October 1805, on board HMS Victory near Cape Trafalgar
Height: 5ft 4in (162 cm)
Years of Service: 1771-1805 inthe Royal Navy

(Click HERE to watch and play the Battle of Trafalgar)

Rochester: Castle and Cathedral


The city has Roman origins, commander Aulus Paulitus and his corpse had built a fort and a bridge at the River Medway. On the fundations o the Roman fort a castle was built by William the Conqueror, a castle that is aming the so called Circle of Nine (Baynard’s and Montfichet used to be in London; WindsorColchester Castle in Essex with the talllest keep of 46 m; Rochester; Canterbury, Oxford, Wallingford, Hertford, Berkhamstead). By the way, William built over 80 castles till his death.

Charles Dickens was born in nearby Chatham and lived there until the age of five. He returned not long before his death. The lands around this area are shown in many works of Dickens. Rochester celebrates the great author with several festivals, like Dickens Festival (in June) and a Dickensian Christmas (fun fair) . Moreover, the Dickens Centre is also found here as well as cafés and pubs namedafter his characters.

Rochester is also famous for Sweeps Festival when chimney sweepers dance and march. It is organized early May every year and a festival combines a fair, music and morris-dancing productions and fun fair elements for all ages.



At the entrance, a large gun taken from the Russians in the Crimean War stand guard. In 1215, noblemen had a fierce and bloody battle against King John I (known as John Lackland). The battle ended with the collision of the main tower. The castle was ruined by fires and theft later on and was abandoned from the 1400s till 1870 when the site was made into a public park. Rochester Castle is part of the English Heritage as a Listed Building and Scheduled Monument. The site has its own ghost, the White Lady.

Rochester Slideshow


Founded by Archbishop Justus in 604, Rochester Cathedral is the secon oldest in England (following Canterbury). The Norman Cathedral dates back to the 1080s and was ordered to built as part of a mnastery by Bishop Gundolf. Elements of Norman architecture can still be discovered in the nave and the crypt. Unique sights are a 13th-century fresco and an unfinished version of the Wheel of Fortune. The crypt hosts the Textus Roffensis which is a manuscript from 1120 and a great memorabilia to that era. Similar to the castle the cathedral was on fire several times. Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary) put Bishop Nicholas Ridley on the bonfire because he supported Lady Jane Grey, a Protestant to get on the throne after King Henry VIII’s successor, son Edward died. The cathedral was ruined by Oliver Cromwell’s men in the 1640s, and no renovations were made for 200 years when the refurbishent following Georg Gilbert Scott’s plans began.

The Cathedral itself hosts a nice medieval Wheel of Fortune painting, a great organ as well as a memorial to a “William”, a legendary pilgrim.


Mary, Queen of Scots

In 1542 James V, the King of Scotland died. His daughter, Mary, who was only one week old, became Queen. While she was still a child, Mary Stuart married Francis, the son of the French King. In 1559 Francis became King of France.
So at the age of 17, Mary, who was a beautiful woman with lovely red hair, was Queen of two countries. But only after one year as King, Francis died.
Her mother-in-law Mary of Guise, did not want Mary in France and so she returned to Scotland.

She married again. This time she married her cousin, Lord Darnley. Mary and Darnley did not like each other. Darnley became very jealous of an Italian called Riccio, who was Mary’s secretary. One night, Darnley and a group of his friends murdered Riccio in front of Mary.

maryqueenofscotsTwo years later, Darnley, too, died. Mary had gone to a dance, but her husband was ill and stayed at home. In the middle of the night the house where Darnley was asleep exploded and caught fire. But Darnley’s body was not found in the house. It was found in the garden. He had been strangled.

Who was the murderer? People suspected the Earl of Bothwell, but it could not be proved. Then Mary shocked the people of Scotland. She married Bothwell. This was too much for the Scots. There was a rebellion and the Scottish people made Mary’s son, James, King. Bothwell, who escaped to Norway, went mad and died in prison. Mary escaped to England.

The English Queen, Elizabeth, who was Mary’s cousin, welcomed Mary, but the English lords did not trust the beautiful Scottish Queen. She was put in prison and the, finally in 1587, she was beheaded for treason. When the executioner lifted up her head, he picked up only the hair. It was a wig. Mary’s own beautiful red hair had turned thin and grey.

In the end, Mary had lost everything. She had lost the crowns of France and Scotland, three husbands, her son, her life – even her famous beauty.


All about the Tudors


Under the Tudors, London grew a lot bigger and wealthier. It was the Renaissance Era: times of happiness and joy, when even poor people could enjoy theatre plays, music and games. By 1600, London’s population was 200,000.

Rich men had built houses along the Strand joining London to Westminster. Along the walls of Tudor London were several gates (e.g. Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Moorgate, Cripplegate, Aldersgate, Newgate and Ludgate). Two of the gates were used as prisons, Ludgate and Newgate. Furthermore, the body parts of traitors who were hung drawn and quartered were displayed over the gates as a warning.

Over the River Thames was London Bridge, which had buildings along its length. (Many of them had shops on the ground floor). South of the Thames was the large suburb of Southwark. The River Thames was a major transport route as Tudor London was the largest port in England. Sailing ships sailed to quays just before London Bridge and there were also smaller boats owned by watermen for transporting people along the Thames. There were also many fishermen in London and The Thames teemed with fish like salmon, trout, perch, flounder and bream. However The Thames sometimes froze over fairs were held on it.

At night the streets of London were dark and dangerous. At 9 pm in summer and at dusk in winter church bells rang the curfew and the city gates were locked.


The Tudors built a lot of galleons (huge ships with sails used for fighting and carrying goods). Tudor ships explored several new parts of the world (America, India etc.) Several new food was brought to England from the Americas like turkey or potato.


pillory.JPGIn Tudor Times people weren’t often put in prison. After their trial, a physical punishment was usually given which were often harsh; e.g. flogging; the pillory or the stocks. (The pillory was a wooden frame on a pole with holes through which a person’s head and hands were placed. The frame was then locked. The stocks was a wooden frame with holes through which a person’s feet.)

More serious crimes were punished by death. Beheading was reserved for the rich, ordinary people were usually hanged.


  • most of the population lived in villages and made their living from farming;
  • towns and cities were growing because of industry (mining of coal, tin and lead)
  • the Royalty
  • the Nobility (they owned the land)
  • the Gentry and rich merchants (they had a family coat-of-arms, land; never did manual work)
  • the Middle class – yeomen and craftsmen (owned their own land but worked on the land, too; able to read and write)
  • the Poor: farmers, wage labourers (often illiterate and very poor)


Boys usually went to a ‘petty school’ (like nursery) first then moved onto grammar school when they were about seven. The school day began at 6 am in summer and 7 am in winter (people went to bed early and got up early in those days). Lunch was from 11 am to 1 pm. School finished at about 5 pm. Boys went to school 6 days a week and there were few holidays.

Many Tudor children learned to read and write. Discipline in Tudor schools was harsh. The teacher often had a stick with twigs attached to it for hitting boys. When they were about 15 or 16 the brightest boys might go to one of England’s two universities, Oxford and Cambridge. Of course many boys did not go to school at all. If they were lucky they might get a 7-year apprenticeship and learn a trade.
As for girls, in a rich family a tutor usually taught them at home. In a middle class family their mother might teach them. Upper class and middle class women were educated. However lower class girls were not. Tudor children who did not go to school were expected to work.


For the rich: jousting; hunting and falconry; billiards; chess and backgammon; cards; the theatre; music and dancing; reading; children played with dolls

For the poor: playing dice instead of cards; Nine men‘s morris; shove ha’penny; the theatre; dancing; rough / mob football (no rules); children played cup and ball.

Names, terms and dates – The Tudors



King Henry VII (1485 – 1509) the first Tudor king who won the final battle of the War of Roses; he was a powerful monarch who saved a lot of money for Britain in the treasury
treasury, the a place used for storing the money of the monarchs or the Church
King Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) he had 6 wives and 3 legitimate children; he liked sports like hunting, jousting and tennis; he sang, played music and composed songs; he built a strong navy for Britain as well as palaces;

he founded the Church of England

King Edward VI (1547 – 1553) son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour; he was a boy king and died at the age of 15; a protestant
Lady Jane Grey was queen for 9 days until Mary, daughter of Henry VIII came and put her in prison
Queen Mary I (1553 – 1558) daughter of Henry VIII and first wife Catherine of Aragon ;a Roman Catholic; made England catholic again and she ordered to execute protestants (ß nickname: Bloody Mary); she was very unpopular when she got married to the King of Spain
Queen Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn; a powerful and strict monarch who made England protestant again; she sent explorers to find new lands for the British Empire; nickname: the Virgin Queen; she won battles against the Spanish Armada on the sea
gentry, the people from high social class
yeoman, a a man who owned and land and also worked on it
jousting knights riding horses and fighting with a lance
falconry hunting with falcons or hawks
Pastime with Good Company a song composed by Henry VIII, named as The King’s Ballad
petty school a school for young boys, like a nursery or kindergarten
illiterate unable to read and write
galleon, a a ship with sails for fighting and carrying goods
Renaissance, the period in Europe btw. 14th and  17th centuries, where people got interested in ancient Greece and Rome again which produced new developments in arts: literature, music, painting and architecture
curfew, a when people mustn’t go out to the street at night
flogging a type of punishment when people were whipped and hit by sticks
pillory, the a type of punishment; a wooden frame on a pole with holes through which a person’s head and hands were placed
stock, the a type of punishment;  a wooden frame with holes through which a person’s feet was put

The King’s Ballad

Pastime With Good Company was composed (and usually played and sung) by King Henry VIII.

Listen and join in.


Pastime with good company, I love and shall until I die.
Grudge who lust, but none deny,
so God be pleas’d thus live will I.
For my pastance, hunt, sing and dance, my heart is set:
all goodly sport, for my comfort, who shall me let?


Youth must have some dalliance of good or ill some pastance.
Company me thinks then best, all thoughts and fancies to digest.
For idleness, is chief mistress of vices all:
then who can say but mirth and play is best of all?


Company with honesty, is virtue, vices to flee.
Company is good and ill, but every man hath his free will.
The best ensue, the worst eschew, my mind shall be;
virtue to use, vice to refuse, thus shall I use me.