Alternative history

Arthur, Prince of Wales

Arthur, Prince of Wales (1486–1502)

Had Henry VIII's elder brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales, not died before their father, Henry VII, he would have become King Arthur.

But, seeing as how the Tudors believed that the King Arthur of legend had been a genuine King of England, the new Arthur would presumably have been crowned Arthur II (not to be confused with Arthur 2, an indescribably bad film starring the late Dudley Moore).

This would mean that, for modern scholars, there would have been a King Arthur II, but not a King Arthur I. Which would have been pretty confusing, if you think about it. Which I have been doing—because I tend to worry about these sorts of things.

Perhaps it's just as well that Arthur, Prince of Wales popped his clogs when he did.

I'm just saying, that's all.

Alternative history

Guardian video: Robert Harris on Fatherland: 'What would have happened if Hitler had won?'

Answer: They would have banned smoking in all public buildings, started monitoring all of our personal correspondence, anaesthetised our brains with vapid television and radio programmes, banned dogs from beaches, and sold us a pack of lies about how we could combat climate change with a few windmills.

But I suppose the trains would at least run on time.

Local news

Guardian: New plaque tells truth of Peterloo killings 188 years on

The uncomfortable truth about a defining moment in the history of democracy in Britain has finally been recorded—188 years after the event—on a red plaque fixed to a wall in the centre of Manchester.

The 1819 Peterloo massacre, which followed a rally where thousands had gathered at St Peter's Fields to demand that the new industrial cities should have the right to elect MPs, has for years been commemorated only by a blue plaque on the Free Trade Hall, now converted to a hotel.

But the plaque made no mention of those cut down and killed when the local volunteer yeomanry was ordered to charge and break up the meeting, whose principal speaker was the famed orator Henry Hunt…

Now Manchester city council has fixed a permanent red plaque to the wall and updated the death toll in line with the latest research. It reads: "On August 16 1819 a peaceful rally of 60,000 pro-democracy reformers, men, women and children, was attacked by armed cavalry resulting in 15 deaths and over 600 injuries."

The above story only managed to make page 10 of the [formerly Manchester] Guardian. A Google News search indicates that this was the only coverage the story received in the UK national press.

Meanwhile, in other news (from the Newspaper of Record):

Times: Small but classy

Tips to help a petite woman look good.




Finally managed to get a photograph of WWII U-Boat U-534 before she leaves her current home in Birkenhead Docks for berths new.

U-534 was comissioned on 23rd December, 1942, carried out three patrols (failing to sink or damage any allied ships), and was sunk by a British Liberator aircraft off the coast of Denmark on 5th May, 1945. Three of her crew were killed, the other 49 survived. She was salvaged in 1993 and put on display on the Wirral, just across the Mersey from the former Western Approaches Command HQ in Liverpool.

U-534 is the same U-Boat that Carolyn and her kids somehow managed to get themselves trapped inside in 2003.


Jen and I have been recording the new BBC2 series The Tudors so that we can watch it all in one go. Jen's mum, on the other hand, has been watching each episode as it airs.

A devout Irish Catholic born and bred, Jen's mum never did much Anglican history at school. Yesterday, she described the latest episode of The Tudors to Jen:

There's this man who's married, but he wants to get a divorce so that he can marry this other woman. So he's going to set up a new church… Oh, but I shouldn't be giving away the story!

Jen reassured her mum that she was pretty sure that the story was a matter of public record.

She then told her mum that I want to eat the pope.

Yorkshire cricket

Hebden Bridge Times: Albert's 'Ten-For' Were Club-Mates

… Old Town [Cricket Club], playing in the second division of the Hebden Bridge League, were the visitors when Birchcliffe played their first match at Nell Carr on Saturday, April 11 1896.

"It was altogether too cold for the game, and at that altitude the breeze was something shocking… under the circumstances, the match hardly lends itself to criticism," commented the Hebden Bridge Times.

Yes, that's the famous Victorian Yorkshire cricketing venue of Nell Carr that they're writing about. Nell Carr was a hill-farm at the time. Today, it's a rather lovely (although, unfortunately, fieldless) residential house. A very fine Yorkshire lass lives there these days, with some fat, bearded joker—an incomedun from out Liverpool way.

The breeze up there is still something shocking most days.

Reflections on the British Empire

For some inexplicable reason, the hotel we stayed at in Sicily last month had a rather magnificent reproduction of this 1886 map of the world, depicting the extent of the British Empire:

British Empire Map

It's a real Ripping Yarns-type map, with gathered natives and animals from our conquered/discovered lands standing around the edges, looking remarkably happy with their lots. The imperial territories are marked in red: the British Isles (including Ireland), the Falklands, Canada, India, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand…

After studying the map for several minutes, an interesting thought occurred to me: how jolly clever of us only to conquer countries that speak English!