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Losing Our Heads (Online) – Mary Queen of Scots and 16th Century Surveillance

The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots "The executioner then picked up the severed head and, showing it to those present, cried out: 'God save Queen Elizabeth! May all the enemies of the true Evangel thus perish!'"

Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots was beheaded about 8am on Wednesday, 8 February 1587 for plotting the assassination of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England (and Ireland).

Mary had not confessed to any crime. The evidence that led to her death came from her intercepted letters. Other letters implicating Mary in the murder of her second husband had led to a cold reception when she first arrived in England. Both cases give an insight into how insecure communication is by no means a modern worry - even if, hopefully, having your emails and Facebook posts read today doesn't lead to an executioner's axe.


The Start of the Sikh Wars

When Ranjit Singh, Maharajah of Punjab died in 1839, the empire he had built gradually became disordered and descended into factional and tribal quarrelling. Ranjit Singh had maintained a policy of wary friendship with the British owned East India Company and had even ceded some territory south of the Sutlej River to them, but after his death, his various successors and ministers were deposed or murdered in a struggle for power. By 1845, its neighbour in British India, fearing the unrest could spread, increased her military forces on the border.


Five Days on San Carlos Water

San Carlos Water was the site of a major battle between aircraft and ships that lasted for five days in 1982 as a British amphibious force landed to recapture the Falkland Islands from the Argentine invaders.

For the first time in history, a modern surface fleet armed with surface to air missiles and with air cover backed up by STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) carrier based aircraft, defended against full scale air strikes. The British fleet sustained severe losses and damage, but were able to land and consolidate the beachhead.


King Henry V and the French Throne

Henry’s remarkable success against the French in battle is well known, but it is not generally realised how close he came to uniting the kingdoms of England and France. His victories had given him control of two thirds of France, plus the guarantee of him succeeding to the French throne on the death of the mad King Charles. If Henry could have lived a few short weeks longer he would have achieved this grand ambition.

Those interested in Medieval history will know of Henry’s great victory at Agincourt (or Azincourt to give it its proper name), but this was not the end of his ambition in France.


The Mau Mau Uprising

In the early 1950s, many parts of Africa were looking to throw off the colonial rule of their European masters and seek independence.

In the British colony of Kenya, local Kikuyu tribesmen formed a resistance group, calling themselves the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA). Their unofficial name of Mau Mau, is believed to be an anagram of the Kikuyu word “Uma Uma” (Get Out! Get Out!).



The Battle of Crécy.  From a 15th Century illuminated manuscript of Jean Froissart's <em>Chronicles</em> Phillip had seriously underestimated the English king. He was to pay a bloody price on the 26th of August 1346, largely due to French pride and bad discipline.

In July 1346, King Edward of England mounted a major invasion of France, landing at Saint Vaast on the Cotentin Peninsula with a force between 10,000 and 15,000 men; first destroying the French ships in the harbour and then burning the town. Edward landed around midday and Froissart records that he tripped with his first step on the beach. This was regarded by some as a bad omen, but Edward was reported to have remarked “I look upon it as a sign that the land desires to have me”. His force marched through Normandy towards Flanders, pillaging as he went in a manner that became known as “chevauchée”, merely destroying rather than attempting to occupy captured land.