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Archive for 'Henry VIII'

A Wealth of History on the Thames

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve read a lot of non-fiction books about England and England history recently. Thames: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd inspired my topic for Thursday Thirteen this week.

Thirteen Facts and Interesting Tidbits About the Thames River

1. The Thames is the longest river in England but not the longest in Britain. The Severn is approximately five miles longer.

2. The Thames is 215 miles long, 191 miles of it navigable.

3. The royals used the Thames as part of their celebrations. During the sixteenth century Henry VIII and Elizabeth I sailed down the Thames in luxurious barges. It was a way of interacting with the people. When Anne Boleyn sailed down the Thames for her coronation, it was said that the barges following her stretched for four miles. She also sailed down the Thames a few years later to get to the Tower.

4. During the sixteenth century the Thames was full of ships. People said the Thames looked like forest of masts. In 1724 Daniel Defoe calculated that at any one time around two thousand vessels were on the water.

5. The Mayflower sailed from Rotherhithe on the Thames.

6. In 1665 and 1666, during the time of plague and the Fire people took refuge on the Thames.

7. The river was linked with excess and bad language, smuggling and theft. People who worked on or near the river were considered disreputable.

8. The workers in the grain and corn warehouses of Milwall Docks were known as “toe-rags” because of the sacking they wore over their boots. The word became a synonym for a despised individual.

9. Mud-larks were usually very young children or old women who spent their days wading through the mud banks during low tide for bits of coal, wood or metal.

10. Venetian galleys brought in sugar, spices and silken garments and returned to their home ports with raw wool from England. By the fourteenth century around one hundred thousand sacks of wool were transported each year.

11. The first steamships appeared on the river in 1801. They were used mainly for towing larger sailing vessels.

12. The Thames is a tidal river, which means high tides and floods are a danger to Londoners. There were major floods in 1809, 1823, 1849, 1852, 1877, 1894. In 1927 fourteen people drowned during floods. The Thames Barrier was built to counteract the effects of the tide. The barrier can hold back 50 thousand tons of water, but it’s said it will be obsolete by 2030. Meanwhile the tides keep getting larger.

13. Between the seventh and seventeenth centuries the Thames froze on eleven occasions. The worst was in 1434-5 when the river froze from the end of November to mid-February. When the Thames froze Londoners celebrated with Frost Fairs. There was food and entertainment on the ice, the last taking place in 1814. When the thaw started, it always happened quickly and the ice broke up in hours.

Have you visited London and seen the Thames?

King’s Love Letters

I read in the New Zealand Herald today that some of King Henry VIII’s love letters, along with thousands of other Tudor and Elizabethan documents, go online this month for public viewing.

The love letters were written by the king in 1527 to the woman who became his second wife. He was still married to Catherine of Aragon at the time. He writes to Anne: “I beg to know expressly your intention touching the love between us. Necessity compels me to obtain this answer, having been more than a year wounded by the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail or find a place in your affection.”

Here’s the link. It wasn’t live when I went to look, but they say it will go live very soon.