All Posts (649)
Nos 581 to 590
York Bowen
Plantagenet Era
The Peasants’ Revolt
In 1381, fourteen-year-old King Richard II was faced with a popular uprising against excessive taxation and government meddling in the labour market.

AFTER the Black Death wiped out nearly three-quarters of England’s population in the 1340s, fit working men were scarce. Much to their disgust, wealthy landowners actually found themselves bidding against each other for a labourer’s favour.

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No. 581
Mediaeval History
Black Agnes Dunbar
When Edward III sent the Earl of Salisbury to take her absent husband’s castle, Agnes brushed his attack aside - literally.

IN 1338, King Edward III of England saw a chance to put his own man, Edward Balliol, on the Scottish throne.

So he sent the Earl of Salisbury to lay siege to Dunbar Castle on the Scottish border, while the Earl of Dunbar, Patrick, was away in France.

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No. 582
Jean-Baptiste Lully
Mediaeval History
The Selfless Courage of Leo the Cook
In 6th century France, a faithful kitchen servant sold himself into slavery to rescue a kidnapped boy.

GREGORY, Bishop of Langres, had a nephew named Attalus, who was kidnapped by a Frankish chieftain near Trier, and kept in slavery as a stable-boy.

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No. 583
Louise Farrenc
Mediaeval History
The Daring Escape of Richard the Fearless
The ten-year-old got away from a royal castle disguised as a bundle of hay.
Based on a story by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)

AFTER the murder of William Longsword, the powerful Duke of Normandy, King Louis IV of France surprised everyone by turning up at the funeral, and taking the duke’s young son Richard, aged about ten, into his own care, which was little more than an imprisonment.

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No. 584
Charles Avison
Mediaeval History
The Assassination of Thomas Becket
Four knights thought they were helping their King, but they could not have made a greater mistake.

THOMAS Becket was in exile in France, at a monastery in Pontigny, when he remarked to the Abbot, “I dreamt, last night, that I was put to death.”

“Do you think you are going to be a martyr?” smiled the Abbot. “You eat and drink too much for that!”

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No. 585
William Herschel
Modern History
Somersett’s Case
James Somersett’s new Christian family used every available means to keep him from slavery.

WHEN Charles Stewart, a customs officer, was in Boston (at that time a town in Massachusetts Bay, a British Crown Colony in America) he purchased an African slave named James Somersett, and brought him back to England. There the young man escaped.

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No. 586
Charles H. Ross
Heads I Win, Tails You Lose!
(That’s cat-tails, obviously.) And who ever said cats were unpredictable?
By Charles H. Ross
(1835-1897)

ONE broiling hot summer’s day Charles James Fox and the Prince of Wales were lounging up St. James’s street, and Fox laid the Prince a wager that he would see more Cats than his Royal Highness would during their promenade, although the Prince might choose which side of the street he thought fit.

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No. 587
Muzio Clementi
Classical History
Horatius at the Bridge
Horatius Cocles was the last man standing between Rome’s republic and the return of totalitarian government in 509 BC.
Based on a story by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)

TARQUIN found a friend in the Etruscan king called Lars Porsena, who brought an army to besiege Rome and restore him to the throne. He advanced towards the gate called Janiculum upon the Tiber, and drove the Romans out of the fort on the other side the river.

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No. 588
Sir William Sterndale Bennett
Stuart Era
The Tale of Beggar’s Bridge
The proof of Thomas Ferres’s rags-to-riches tale is quite literally written in stone, but popular lore adds some tantalising and romantic detail.

A GRACEFUL bridge over the Esk at Glaisdale bears the date 1619, and the initials T.F., for Thomas Ferres, Mayor of Hull. Thomas amassed a fortune plying the east coast as master of a trading-ship called the Francis, which he poured into housing, education and apprenticeships for the poor.

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No. 589
Ignaz Moscheles
Classical History
The Battle of Salamis
Defeat for the Greeks would have changed the course of Western civilization.

IN the late summer of 480 BC, an alliance of Greek states suffered a humiliating reverse at Thermopylae, emboldening the Persian Emperor Xerxes in his invasion of Greece.

But Themistocles refused to abandon hope.

With what remained of the Greek fleet, the sly general lured the Persians into the cramped confines of the Straits of Salamis.

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No. 590
Polywords (182)
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Latest: Path
Added on Monday December 11th, 2017
Doublets (34)
Turn one word into another, changing just one letter each time.
Latest: Stardust
Quickwords (46)
A mini-crossword of everyday vocabulary and general knowledge.
Triplets (23)
Find one common letter that will turn three words into three new ones.
Latest: Triplet No. 23
Guess these words letter by letter – before the cats are gone!
See how ingenious you can be in combining three randomly chosen words in one sentence.
Compose sentences showing the difference in meaning, grammar or usage between these words.
Practise your basic arithmetic, from multiplation tables to percentages.
Latest: Target Number
Take command of English grammar and composition with these traditional exercises.
Latest: Letters Game
A word search game with a dash of strategy.
Today in History
1878 The death of Alfred Bird, Birmingham pharmacist and confectioner
From our Archive
James calls Fr Huddleston to his brother’s deathbed, ready for a most delicate task.
Marko adopts drastic measures to get out of repaying the loan of a penny.
By Harrison Weir
(1824-1906)
Victorian cat-lover Harrison Weir launches into his favourite subject, but finds his audience growing restive.
By William Shakespeare
(1564-1616)
The prospect of facing daunting odds made his cousin quail, but Henry acted like a true King.
King Philip V of Spain sent a second Spanish Armada against Britain, but it suffered much the same fate as the first.

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Railways (23)
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Adam Smith (10)
Polyword ‘Signal’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

More Word Games
A word search game with a dash of strategy.
Guess these words letter by letter – before the cats are gone!
Do you know ‘conscientious’ (7 letters), and ‘unreturned serve’ (3 letters)?
Change SNOW into DROP, one letter at a time.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.