Icons of English history, myth and folklore
Posted by Dan | Nov 13th, 2022 - 8:00pm
It is hard not to fall in love with some of the fantastic histories we have here as such an ancient isle - we have developed a mixture of mythos and real lore that gives all of the British Isles an awe-inspiring list of characters and legends well-worth repeating forever around campfires and to our children. This quiz contains some of the most fascinating characters, be they real or fictional, and some of their most recognisable feats - be they famous, or infamous, you are likely going to have heard of all of these stories, but can you attribute the right name to the tale?
Born in York in the late 1500s, after completing schooling this historical figure enlisted in the military to serve in the Eighty Years war to fight on behalf of Catholic Spain against the Dutch and the French. This person wished to form a Catholic uprising in England with the assistance of the Spanish, regarding King James I as a heretic but was unable to drum up support. The following year, they joined up with a group of English Catholics who had created a scheme to oust King James I and replace him with his daughter, Princess Elizabeth.
A legend of English folklore, appearing in many a story, rhyme and fairytale, but one that is typically known by a single name. They have done everything from climbing to the heavens to fight with giants, being sighted as an apparition in urban legend, and even having an intolerance to fat in one tale. The name is associated with All Hallows Eve and May Day and also has been assigned to mysterious real figures and even serial killers... A name of legend, and one you are surely familiar with...
An icon of English royalty who presided over England for some 36 years, known for their extremely rotund figure and for making sweeping changes to the nation. This leader engaged in plenty of wars, including a failed campaign against Scotland (the last of its kind prior to the merging of the Scottish and English crowns) as well as multiple campaigns in France, but the removal of people they didn't like from within their own court as well as dissidents and heretics within the country was equally brutal - it is estimated more than 50,000 died by their order. Of course, they may well be best known for their 6 spouses, some of which met an untimely end whereas for others, they needed to reinvent Christianity and leave Catholicism in order to found the church of England and be able to divorce 2 of those 6 - as many as they had beheaded.
A noble person of Anglo-Saxon Britain and a patron of various churches and monasteries, this person is quite real but they are most famous for a specific legend. They were said to have been a champion of the people of Coventry, who were suffering under the extreme taxation of their spouse. After many appeals, their spouse finally relented with a deal: the spouse would lower the tax if this person rode naked through the town and to the crowded marketplace. This person agreed, stripped naked and mounted a horse, with their long hair covering everything except their legs - as a result, their spouse freed the town of taxation on all items except horses. While you try to name the person in question, the legend actually gave birth to another infamous name in English history, it is said that a man named Thomas saw the ride and was struck blind or dead (depending on the retelling) - this addition birthed the name "Peeping Tom".
This question is in regard to an iconic pseudonym of a murderer who stalked London's Whitechapel district in the late 1800s. They targeted working women and their brutal acts demonstrated detailed knowledge of human anatomy, carried out with the precision of that of a doctor or butcher. Authorities were taunted by a person who referred to themself by this pseudonym, and claimed to have carried out the murders in question - the authorities were never able to identify or capture the killer, and little more remains about them beyond their world-famous name...
A potentially controversial person from our nation's history next, this statesperson was regarded by some as a crucial part of the move towards a constitutional government, whereas others have called them a dictator. They were born in Huntingdonshire (a part of Cambridgeshire) in the mid-1600s, they established themselves as a Member of Parliament during a turbulent time, and hostilities between Parliament and the reigning monarch, Charles I, resulted in the English Civil War. This person sided with the Parliament's forces and would climb the ranks throughout the skirmishes - they would return to politics during a brief gap in battles, but due to failed diplomacy, they would find themselves leading the forces against the Royalists in the Second English Civil War. It was during this second Civil War that King Charles I would be tried for treason and executed, and by the early 1650s the Commonwealth was established, a new constitution drafted and a protectorate with this person acting as "Lord Protector", a role that appeared to be somewhere between a modern Prime Minister and a Monarch. This would be a time of some prosperity for the nation, and after some time Parliament would actually offer him the crown - an honour they would decline.
The nation would only exist in this format for around 5 years, until this person's death when they would be buried at Westminster Abbey. After their death, the Protectorate would quickly decline and before long the monarchy would be re-established by a Royalist uprising, who as you may imagine did not look favourably upon this person. By order of King Charles II, this person was posthumously executed with their head displayed on a pike outside Westminster Hall.
An icon of Shakespearean legend, this monarch sought to divide their nation amongst their daughters, granting each a portion that scaled relative to a speech they would need to make declaring their love for this person. Two of the daughters make insincere but eloquent declarations and are thusly rewarded but the third, who truly loves her parent, refuses to make such a speech to prove their love and is disinherited. The two daughters now in control of the kingdom, cast out their parent who slips into madness and wanders the kingdom accompanied by their faithful Fool. This person finds allies and gets help from the daughter who refused to make a speech, who has since married the king of France - they would invade using the French army but would be defeated and both the daughter and this person are taken into custody. The daughter is hanged, and this person dies with their daughter's body in their arms.
An explorer, captain, privateer, slave trader, naval officer and politician, this person lived a life that saw all corners of the globe - famously circumnavigating the entire world in a single expedition, the third person to manage it. They would establish a claim to "New Albion" for England on the west coast of modern-day USA, and following this would be infamous as a privateer against the Spanish earning him a huge bounty on their head as well as the nickname "El Draque". Other achievements include earning a knighthood and being named mayor of Plymouth, as well as acting as second-in-command under Charles Howard in the battle against the Spanish Armada of 1588.
This person dates far back into the history of England, back to a time of Roman rule on these isles. They were the partner of the then ruler over Iceni (modern-day Norfolk), who upon the ruler's death left their wealth to their daughters and emperor Nero, hoping to protect their family. This didn't pan out, with the Romans annexing their kingdom, humiliating their family and plundering the chief tribesmen. In response, this person raised a rebellion throughout East Anglia, burning Camlodunum (Colchester), Verulamium (St. Albans) and parts of Londinium (London) as well as many military posts - massacring some 70,000 Romans and their allies. Roman general Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was sent to meet the army at modern-day Fenny Stratford, he managed to regain the province and this person, in response to their defeat, either took poison or died of some illness shortly afterwards.
A merchant and politician of the parish of St Michael Paternoster Royal, this person is the real-life inspiration for a famous English folk tale. They were four times Lord Mayor of London, a member of parliament and a Sheriff of London. They funded a number of public projects and formed a charity using their fortune after their death. There is a memorial to this person, complete with a statue of a cat, at the foot of Highgate hill in North London.
The folk tale is that of a person who is born a poor orphan in Lancashire, who sets off to London in search of their fortune, following the promise of streets paved with Gold. The reality was less kind, but they found their way into the home of a wealthy merchant who gave them lodging and a job in the kitchens. In some versions, they lived in the attic of the merchant's house which was infested with mice but using a cat they bought for a penny while shining shoes they were able to keep the rodent problem under control. They would give up the cat to a trade ship that belonged to the merchant, under various circumstances depending on which story you are reading, but generally, they hoped to sell the cat for profit and to improve their life.
They would eventually leave their job and home, fleeing the city but eventually being called back by London's bells tolling three times. During this time, the ship made land off the Barbary Coast, where the entire cargo was purchased by a Moorish king. At a banquet held by the king, vermin swarmed them, where the cat proved its worth by chasing and destroying them - overjoyed at the demonstration and finding out the cat was pregnant, the king paid more (in some accounts, 10 times more) for the cat than the entire cargo stock. Upon its return to England, the merchant would sit this person down, addressing them formally and explaining that this person was now even richer than the merchant was. This person would marry the merchant's daughter and join them in business, in time they would become Lord Mayor of London three times, as the bells predicted. Their acts of charity included building a collage, a church and a prison for the city.
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