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Anecdotes of the British Monarchs

The Crusader

Shortly after being crowned, King Richard (1189 - 1199) decided to become a crusader.  Not much good came out of the Crusades except the English learnt about luxury goods such as silks, spices and rice and how to build bigger boats in which to carry them.  On his way home from Palestine, King Richard was captured by the Duke of Austria and thrown into prison. No one in England knew where he was. A legend says that a close friend of Richard’s, a minstrel called Blondel, toured round the castles of Europe looking for him. One day, high up in his prison tower, the king heard Blondel below singing a song the minstrel had once written for him. Richard bawled out the chorus, and Blondel knew he'd found the right place. He rushed home to tell the English nobles, who happily paid a huge ransom to get their king back.

The Magna Carta

King John (ruled 1199 - 1216) was Richard the Lionheart's youngest brother. He was cruel, greedy monarch, and his barons got so fed up with this that they formed an army and marched on his palace. Finally, at Runnymede, a meadow by the river Thames, the barons forced him to sign an important paper called Magna Carta. This said that from now on, the king had to ask his barons how the country should be run and he couldn’t do just as he liked any more. This important document was the beginning of modern Constitutional Monarchy and democracy.

The Parliament

King Henry the Third (ruled 1216 - 1272) was only nine years old when he became king. He was proud, had temper tantrums and spent a fortune on glorifying his palaces. He believed that kings were holy and should be worshipped like saints. Henry's nobles and bishops were so annoyed by Henry's behaviour that they decided to hold a meeting. They invited the knights and big landowners along too, so everyone could have their say. They called this meeting a 'Parliament', and from then on Parliament met in order to make rules, to decide how to run the country and, more often than not, to tell the king what they thought of him.

The Long-shanks

Edward the First (ruled 1272 - 1307) was called Long-shanks because of his long legs. Surprisingly, he was the first king to attempt to rule Scotland and Wales. Other kings had seemed more interested in French territory than expanding their kingdoms at home. Edward defeated Welsh Prince Llywelyn, although the Welsh nobles submitted to Edward, they said they wanted a new prince who had been born in Wales and didn't speak English. But Edward had a trick up his sleeve. His baby son had been born in Wales and couldn't talk at all, let alone speak English! So one-year-old Edward was presented as their future Prince of Wales. He had no luck in conquering Scotland, but never gave up, even to the end. He died setting out to fight yet another battle. His servants had been ordered not to bury him but to carry his bones with the army until Scotland was finally defeated. Understandably no one wanted the grizzly job and his son, Edward the Second, had him buried at Westminster Abbey.

A Gay King

Edward the Second (ruled 1307 - 1327) seemed to be a gay. He even spent his wedding night with his handsome male friend Piers Gaveston rather than his wife. His wife, queen Isabella, and his nobles organised a revolt, he was captured and forced to hand over the crown to his son, Edward the third. He was imprisoned in Berkely Castle and then murdered by having a red-hot poker pushed up his bottom. This should be a cruellest death to punish a gay!

Handkerchief Inventer

Richard the Second (Ruled 1377 - 1399) was rude, boastful, had a violent temper and when he couldn't get his way, he was mean and cruel. He was very vain and decked himself out in the most ridiculous finery. His fur-trimmed sleeves reached down to the floor, and the toes of his shoes were so long they had to be fastened to his knees by chains. He wore big gold bows on his legs and covered himself from head to toe in jewels. He is a rotten king, but we have one very important thing to thank him for. It was his idea to use small pieces of cloth to keep his nose clean. He invented the handkerchief.

Dick Wittington and his cat

Henry IV illegally overthrew the legitimate ruler, and he managed to get parliament to agree that he was the rightful king. This meant the Plantagenets no longer ruled England. During Henry's reign ordinary people began to make a lot of money as merchants. One of the most famous was Dick Whittington whose ship was called the Cat. He had come to London as a poor boy but ended up as rich as some of the nobles and landowners. It is where the story of Dick Whittington and his cat comes from, its moral being that you needn't be a nobleman to make your fortune.

A Kind man

Henry the Sixth (1422 - 1461) was crowned as king of England when he was nine months old. He grew up to be a kind man, very serious and religious. In one occasion, he was so angry one Christmas when one of his lords brought a group of ladies with bare bosoms to dance before him that he turned his back and stormed out the room.

A Hunchback

Richard the Third (1483 - 1485) became guardian to his two nephews, instead of looking after them, he locked them up in London Tower and then murdered the princes. In William Shakespeare's play, he was a villain with a withered arm and a hunched back. In fact, he is often known as Richard Crookback, that meant his shoulders were a bit uneven there is no reason to think he really had a twisted body. The Tudors hated Richard and wanted everyone to think badly of him, and Shakespeare wrote the play for the Tudor Queen Elizabeth the First. There is a legend that during the battle Richard's horse was killed under him and, as it's very difficult to do battle on foot, he offered to swap the whole of England for another mount. "A horse! A horse!" he cried, "My kingdom for a horse!"

The Groom of the Stool

Henry the Eight (ruled 1509 -1547) had a special servant called 'the groom of the stool' whose job was to talk to the king when he was on the toilet! He often wooed his ladies by playing love songs to them on his lute. He is believed to have written the famous song 'Greensleeves' for Anne Boleyn. Some say this was because she was fond of wearing green; others joke it as because she had the unpleasant habit of wiping her nose on her sleeve. The king hate fruit and vegetables. His favourite food was meat which he ate for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper. Not only did this make him ill but he grew to such a monstrous size that he had to be transported up and down stairs in a tram.

The Virgin Queen

Queen Elizabeth (rule 1558 - 1603) was sometimes called the Virgin Queen, because she never married. One of her favourite was Walter Raleigh, a soldier and explorer, he threw his cloak over a puddle to save the royal shoes getting wet. He set up colonies in America and called one of them Virginia in honour of Elizabeth.

Pig Phobia

King James the First (1603 - 1625) was frightened of pigs, hated the sea and was forever worrying that witches were casting spells on him.  Many of the nobles who had supported King Charles the First (1625 -1649) wore wide-brimmed hats and had long flowing hair. The Roundheads thought they were just playing at being soldiers so they nicknamed them 'Cavaliers', which means 'not really serious'. Oliver Cromwell and a lot of his supporters were Puritans, who believed they had God on their side, hated celebrations like Christmas and birthdays and wore their hair cropped short to show that they weren't vain. The Cavaliers nicknamed them 'Roundheads'.

Many Princes and Princesses

George the Third (ruled 1760 - 1820) and his queen, Charlotte, produced more princes and princesses than any other British royal family - fifteen in all. when staying at Windsor Castle, the king would make them all parade up and down on the terrace in order of height, the babies being carried by their nursemaids. Towards the end of his life George got a disease of the blood and went mad. Sometimes this was very funny - he once had a chat with a tree which he thought was the King of Prussia, but sometimes he was so scary, when his servants tried to shave him he threatened to bring in the battle-axes!

A Fat King

George the Fourth (rule 1820 -1830) wore horrible greasy make-up on his face and was so fat it was said that his stomach hung down to his knees.  He stays in bed all day where he was served huge meals.

Who doesn’t’ wipe nose with finger?

William the Fourth (1830 -1837) had an annoying habit of wiping his nose with his finger.

A Perfect Queen

Elizabeth the Second (ruled 1952 -) seemed the perfect little princess. One of the naughtiest things she ever did was throw her teddy bear down the stairs. In 1982, to everyone's astonishment, a man called Michael Fagan managed to break into Buckingham Palace early one morning and stroll straight into the queen's bedroom. He pulled the curtains, woke up the Queen, then sat on her bed and began telling her about his family! She kept him talking until a footman came and rescued her.  Now the palace is guarded much more carefully.

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