What have you always wanted to know from History but were afraid to ask.....

(67 Posts)
Northernlurkerisbackatwork Wed 19-Sep-12 08:16:55

Thread for odd (in every sense) questions and answers...........grin

sherbetpips Wed 19-Sep-12 21:25:44

Why in world war one was the main plan to line up opposite each other and then sound a loud horn when you were about to go over the top so they knew when to shoot at you? Always found it crazy.

Northernlurkerisbackatwork Wed 19-Sep-12 23:36:53

I think the whistle was because the officer cmmanding wouldn't have a clear line of sight to all the troop as the trenches weren't straight. The whistle was a clear 'go' signal. And yes helpful to the enemy.

The line up thing was not the plan, it's just what happened because the forces were more evenly matched than expected I think. The advent of the machine gun and other more powerful artillery meant you couldn't use calvary charges to sweep over the battlefield. Once they were pinned down they became quite literally bogged down and it was hard to get moving. Tanks were only developed for the latter part of the war - as craft that could make way through damaged terrain. Air power was a developing issue but not enough to turn the tide in one way or the other. One thing that was tried was digging tunnels under each others lines and exploding mines. Lethal in every sense.

Nothing about WW1 makes sense tbh. The war before that on European soil was the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. The Prussians smashed FRance in weeks (with fairly nasty loss of life) and that was it - tensions sorted for a bit. When people said in 1914 that it would be over by Christmas they really thought that was the case. The Powers had all been working up to war for a decade though and had a massive amount at stake and plenty of resources to mobilise. Making a lethal stalemate.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 19-Sep-12 23:39:41

Was Lady Jane grey really queen for nine days?

NewStartSameStory Wed 19-Sep-12 23:42:46

When did it become socially acceptable to break the law as it was seen as getting one up on the establishment?

Oh and recent history: if the russians had been in 40 years trying to sort afghanistan and had to withdrawl as it was costly in terms of men and resources. Which muppet thought it was a good idea for us to go in? Could we not learn from other's mistakes? or does the UK still have some delusional sense of the all conquering empire?

BurlingtonBertieFromBow Wed 19-Sep-12 23:43:12

TheDoctrine - yes.

The throne was really supposed to go to Princess Mary (who became Mary I after Jane) and then Princess Elizabeth (who became Elizabeth I). Jane was their cousin and was due to inherit the throne if Edward, Mary and Elizabeth all died without heirs - there was an Act of Parliament saying that. But Mary was a Catholic and her brother Edward VI's Protestant ministers didn't want her to be queen, so they persuaded Edward (who died when he was only 16) to skip Mary and Elizabeth leave the throne to Jane, who was a Protestant and married to the chief minister's son. But Jane and her ministers had no support, so Mary declared herself queen and took the throne after only 9 days.

NewStartSameStory Wed 19-Sep-12 23:44:55

And yes I am mindful that a lot of the boarders in that area of the world were more of less arbitrarily drawn to suit various other nations at various times over the course of history - how is that actually enforced? DO they just draw a map and say make it so?

WilfSell Wed 19-Sep-12 23:53:50

Did she really, you know, with the horse?

Themumsnot Thu 20-Sep-12 00:05:17

Unfortunately, it appears that was just malicious rumour. She did shag about a lot though.

SloeFarSloeGood Thu 20-Sep-12 00:19:01

Why did all of Queen Annes children die?

SPsFanjoShiversTheTimbers Thu 20-Sep-12 00:28:58

If Shakespeare was alive today what would he have thought of Leonardo playing Romeo in the film?

Queenofsiburbia Thu 20-Sep-12 00:38:47

Just been reading about the Duchess of Marlborough (queen Anne's on & off BFF) and its hard to work out exactly why all Anne's children died but it was well known that she was very large and indolent and this possibly meant she had an exceptionally poor diet, possibly diabetes?

I guess the fact that she had so many pregnancies in such close succession probably didn't help her to recover between each. And of course inevitable infections, illnesses etc.
I'll report back if it gets clearer. Btw - good book it's by Ophelia Field. Duchess of Marlborough quite an impressive character

Northernlurkerisbackatwork Thu 20-Sep-12 08:24:30

A lot of Anne's pregnancies ended in stillbirth didn't they? Clotting disorder? She died of a stroke as well.

sp he'd have been more concerned about Claire Danes playing Juliet. At the time it was illegal for women to take to the stage and all female roles were played by young men/boys in drag!

NewStart when the European powers decided to carve up Africa, they got together and discussed it over dinner. They drank rather too much and used a pencil and ruler to mark out the borders (hence the number of straight lines), but whoever held the pencil had the hiccups and this is evidenced for example on the Algeria-Mali border.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 20-Sep-12 09:02:06

Thank you BBfB

LineRunner Thu 20-Sep-12 09:07:36

Was Jesus married?

SloeFarSloeGood Thu 20-Sep-12 09:13:47

But did Queen Anne have a condition which caused the loss of her children? Her mother lost lots of children too.

NewStartSameStory Thu 20-Sep-12 13:00:25

They didn't know about rhesus factors in those days so that might be a possible reason for problems. but it is hard to go back and study, no tissue to examine. Might be possible to extrapilate from descendants and there was a very interesting program about medical conditions that followed the royal family a while back. Can't remember who made it/channel though.

Thanks Beardy.

24Hours Thu 20-Sep-12 13:07:49

Did we get our modern notion of Christmas from the restoration? They were allmad for the craic after Cromwell and the Puritans, plus there was the little ice age
The Victorians then took all this and ran with it, but it wasn't their invention just their augmentation. ?

Northernlurkerisbackatwork Thu 20-Sep-12 20:39:17

Queen Anne's family history is not good. Her sister had one known miscarriage and then no other pregnancies. Certainly argues for some pretty serious problems.
Rhesus problems would also explain why Anne Boleyn had one healthy dd and then only miscarriages and stillbirths.

Northernlurkerisbackatwork Thu 20-Sep-12 20:43:06

Christmas - I think the Tudors were pretty keen on a Christmas feast tbh. It's the Christmas tree that the Victorians bought in - courtesy of Prince Albert's German notions. Victoria's mother was German too so I expect it was well known to her as an idea even before her marriage.

I have no idea about the 'when did it become ok to break the law' question. Maybe the 19th Century - with increased campaigns for political ends? Or further back to the French and American revolutions?

TunipTheVegemal Fri 21-Sep-12 11:02:28

I think there are a lot of specific things about Christmas that are Victorian, as well as the tree. I can think of Christmas cards and the way Father Christmas is conceptualised specifically but I bet there are more. Present giving used to belong on Three Kings Day at one point rather than Xmas day - I wonder exactly when it stopped being Twelve Days of Christmas and became more about the one day.

TunipTheVegemal Fri 21-Sep-12 11:03:46

I'm agreeing with NorthernLurker there, btw - Christmas was big long before the Victorians but it was a lovely pagan-influenced festival with 12 days and a Yule log.

MrsjREwing Fri 21-Sep-12 23:07:24

A document recently unearthed is currently splitting acadmenics regarding Jesus and Mary M being married. The gap in a dead sea scroll detailing where Jesus kissed Mary M doesn't make things clearer.

GetOrfAKAMrsUsainBolt Fri 21-Sep-12 23:11:04

There is a painting of Queen Anne with her son the Duke of Gloucester who looks about 2 or 3 in the picture. So not all died as babies. Could they have had the hereditary illnesses porphyria or heamophilia - a lot of the royal families in Europe were blighted by it (and was this due to inbreeding?)

LineRunner Fri 21-Sep-12 23:12:28

Who would it matter to, if Jesus had been married?

Only the very 4thc+ catholic church.

I think every one else would be relieved.

BurlingtonBertieFromBow Sat 22-Sep-12 23:39:05

The Duke of Gloucester lived until he was 11 and then died of smallpox. Can't imagine how awful that must have been, for the other 16 babies to have died and then her son lived till 11 then died sad

monsterchild Sat 22-Sep-12 23:45:28

I think breaking the law became cool back in the day when empires took over areas and people thought that was a bad idea. How many native British enjoyed sticking it to the man? or anyone conquered for that matter. Think of the religious sects that had to meet secretly for fear of retribution.

BelleDameSansMerci Sun 23-Sep-12 00:22:54

I wonder if breaking the law to "get one over" on whomever was in charge could go back to Norman times?

monsterchild Sun 23-Sep-12 00:34:07

Belle I'm sure it went back to Roman times!

KenDoddsDadsDog Sun 23-Sep-12 00:37:14

Love this, marking spot and thinking of questions !

herethereeverywhere Sun 23-Sep-12 13:30:25

How did people know the 'rules' of society ? I am thinking of particularly Edwardian times and the social rules dictating class. How do these rules come about? How did everyone know their place? And how did it change?

Greythorne Sun 23-Sep-12 14:10:18

Why are Latin names given the -ius ending in English?

Like Suetonius, Julius etc.

In French, Julius becomes Jules. Why did we adopt -ius?

ByTheWay1 Sun 23-Sep-12 14:20:06

why were we so "backward" - the Egypitians and the Romans seem to have had national governments and societies more related to modern life - but around the same sort of time ( 1BC/AD) we seemed to be in tribes living in huts fishing and farming - and we seemed to be like that for a bloomin long time - after the Romans had been and gone....

R2PeePoo Sun 23-Sep-12 15:22:41


I think location and geography play a big part.

The UK has much worse winters than the Southern Med which took up a lot more effort to survive and affected what plants could grow.

Egypt and Rome are situated on the Mediterranean Sea, a relatively sheltered Sea with access to many civilisations and cultures, including the earlier more developed ones on the Euphrates and the Tigris. Trade and warfare and access to facilities and schools of other countries meant things progressed faster. The UK had fewer 'advanced' cultures to come in contact with.

Institutionalised slavery with vast amounts of bonded people available through warfare and the criminal justice system. They could do all the grunt work, leaving a portion of the population to think about art, science and other lofty pursuits.

Once the Romans left we didn't have access to the trade networks, governmental organisation (taxes, law and order etc), military might etc. Quite a lot if not most of the wealth left with the Romans - why stay on a wet and wild isolated corner of the empire when you could be safe in Rome. When the Romans left the UK was vulnerable to internal strife and external invasion.

ByTheWay1 Sun 23-Sep-12 15:50:47

thanks R2PeePoo

this thread rocks!! going off to think another think.....

Northernlurkerisbackatwork Sun 23-Sep-12 16:30:21

<<cracks knuckles>>

Haemophilia in the Royal Family

Ok - as far as we know the first case in the British Royal Family was Leopold. Queen Victoria's youngest son. Her older three sons were not affected but her older daughters were. Alice certainly carried the gene as did Beatrice.
The fact that this disease appeared with Victoria means that either it was caused by a random genetic mutation (most likely) or her father was a 'secret' haemophilac - unlikely he lived to a good age with no reports of problems - or her father wasn't the Duke of Kent. Also unlikely - whatever you think of her mother, her pregnancy quickly followed their marriage and it's stretching things to think she would have popped off and found a haemophiliac lover so quick hmm. So the modern royal gene starts there.

The daughters of a heamophiliac will always carry the gene - because it's on the x chromosome. The sons will always be unaffected. For the children of a woman carrying the gene - the sons may inherit it and have the disease, the duaghters may carry it and in turn pass it on to their children. It's unpredictable and when the marriages of the descendants of Victoria were happening, the risk was not properly understood or believed.

Alice's daughters married amongst the Royal families of Europe and two turned out to carry the gene. One of these was Alix who became the last Tsarina of Russia. Her giving birth to an heir so seriously incapacitated by this illness critically undermined her husband's throne. Beatrice's daughter Eugenie also married a King - the King of Spain. Haemophilia also afflicted her family though one of her sons was untouched. It destroyed her marriage and also destabilised an already shaky throne. Eugenie's brother had haemophilia but Alfonso, the King of Spain has not believed Eugenie was affected by the gene because she looked so healthy. She was of course completely healthy herself and her children's problems was an awful grief to her. In a 'what would have happened if...' storyline it's worth remembering that the heir to the British throne, the Duke of Clarence, had also wanted to marry Alix. Likewise the German Kaiser had wanted to marry another of Alice's daughters - Ella, Alix's older sister. Ella married a Russian duke and she may or may not have carried haemophilia as she never had any children. So it was Russia and Spain that were touched by this - but it could have been the UK or Germany - and what difference that might have made to the course of 2oth century history...............

Northernlurkerisbackatwork Sun 23-Sep-12 16:31:28

Beatrice was Queen Victoria's youngest daughter - ust read that back and I've made it sound like she was older than Leopold which she wasn't.

susiedaisy Sun 23-Sep-12 16:34:38

Marking my spot, great thread

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 23-Sep-12 16:37:05

Thanks northern!

GetOrfAKAMrsUsainBolt Sun 23-Sep-12 17:06:12

OOOOH northern that's fantastic.

MrsjREwing Sun 23-Sep-12 17:15:53

What age were Vic's dc when she was widdowed?

ihatethecold Sun 23-Sep-12 17:24:40

Marking my place cos I bunked off history at school.
I live to regret that now blush

lljkk Sun 23-Sep-12 17:25:50

About Queen Vic & haemophilia: Steve Jones (the renowned biologist) has posited that it was the fault of the advanced age of QV's father: 50+. He reckons it was a random mutation in the sperm (due to Dad's age) that fertilised the egg to become QV, which she inherited & unknowingly passed to her sons.

My question is:
What did Henry VIII expect from his marriage to Catherine Parr? Was he actually just looking for a kindly stepmother? hmm

Seems strange she's the only one he didn't do horrors by.

lljkk Sun 23-Sep-12 17:26:47

ps: and how well did the Princess Elizabeth know her mother Anne Boleyn, at the time of Anne's execution? Was Anne just a remote figure to Elizabeth?

BurlingtonBertieFromBow Sun 23-Sep-12 17:34:34

lljkk - re Catherine Parr, it's hard to tell. She wasn't old - only about 32 and he was at least 20 years older than her. He didn't get really ill until quite soon before his death so they could have had a 'normal' marriage. Some Catholic nobles did try to topple her by telling the king she had contacts with heretics like Anne Askew, but in the end Henry turned on them.

re Elizabeth - she was only 2.5 when Anne died, and was kept at a different palace with her own household from a very young age. Anne did visit her, but was expected to spend most of her time at court with her husband so Elizabeth probably didn't know her very well

MrsjREwing Sun 23-Sep-12 17:35:16

llkk, Henry nearly had her taken to the tower over bible bashing, she then calmed down.

Northernlurkerisbackatwork Sun 23-Sep-12 18:11:26

Victoria's dc (I had to look the ages up - don't carry it around in my head - I'm not that obsessive!)

Victoria - 21 (married and away in Germany)
Bertie (later Edward VII) -20
Alice - engaged - 18
Alfred - 17
Helena - 15
Louise -13
Leopold - 8
Beatrice -4

So really very young. Queen Victoria complains a lot in her letters and diary about the awful responsibility left to her after Albert died and it's easy to dismiss that as part of her general gloomy outlook in her bereavement - but tbh I can see what she means. Only one of her children was independently settled and 6 of them were under 18. Alice's marriage took place in 1862 on the day Albert had planned. Everybody wore mourning and the Archbishop cried throughout. Victoria described it as 'more like a funeral than a wedding'

Northernlurkerisbackatwork Sun 23-Sep-12 18:15:45

Sorry - I am inept today! That's their ages in December 1861 when Albert died.

Weirdly enough Alice died on exactly the same day 17 years later.

lljkk - the mutation theory is really the only credible one isn't it?

MrsjREwing Sun 23-Sep-12 18:18:45

I went to Isle of White and Osborne house, they had gardens and playhouses for the dc there, I always wondered what age they lost their Dad at.

So she had a stack of teens, a little one and the little unwell lad to parent emotionally alone, an empire to run, weddings to organise and she lost the love of her life, no surprise she had a breakdow.

Northernlurkerisbackatwork Sun 23-Sep-12 18:23:55

Yes exactly. Victoria herself was only 42 and as you can see by the number of dc she and Albert had a healthy and happy sex life. It's clear for her writing that she would never have contemplated marrying again and was very stern about other widows who did so (which is one of the reasons the suggestins about John Brown being her lover are so daft). So Albert's death not only broke her heart, it ended her physical life as a lover too.

MrsjREwing Sun 23-Sep-12 18:30:17

She had a strange Mother/Daughter relationship with her DM so probably wasn't close to many people.

MoreBeta Sun 23-Sep-12 18:35:41

herethereeverywhere - the rules of society and class distinctions were mainly enforced by economic necessity over centuries.

For example. In Victorian times the gap between rich and poor was extremely wide. However, there wa s very little welfare state back in Victorain times so anyone who was poor, who had no land or property and no real professional skills found it beneficial to go and work in 'service' as servants for wealthy people. A roof over your head, food on the table, clothes on your back and a steady job for the rest of your life was something many people were happy to grab with both hands as the alternative was work in a grim factory or living in a workhouse.

The economic facts of life reinforced the master-servant relationship in Victorian times but nowadays the welfare state means fewer people are willing to endure the strictures of servant life. They have an alternative.

After WW1 the class structure began to collapse as the cost of the war meant many families became a lot poorer. Many gave up their servants. There was a further economic collpase in the 1930s and a further collapse after WW2. Far fewer families had live in servants as a result.

Having said that, nannies, cleaners, house keepers, cooks, chaufeurs, butlers are all still present and increasing in numbers in London as the gap between rich and poor is now as wide in London as Victorian times and many immigrants are willing to work that servant life.

TessTosterone Sun 23-Sep-12 18:47:54

A history teacher told me that the term 'lap dog' was used in Georgian society for dogs that would sit under the table at upper class functions and 'lap up' the urine from the toffs too lazy to go to the loo.

Is this true? I tried to google it but couldn't find out and have been curious ever since.

MrsjREwing Sun 23-Sep-12 18:52:54

I thought the dogs sat on laps.

I thought they pissed in the corridors in France pre revolution.

TunipTheVegemal Sun 23-Sep-12 19:56:41

I've never heard that Tess. I don't believe it tbh, they had pots for pissing in and special cupboards to put them in and servants to hold them if they were too lazy to hold them themselves.

monsterchild Sun 23-Sep-12 20:01:09

i'm with the turnip on this one. Lap dogs were for laps, and probably for luring the fleas from the owners!

No dog I know will willing to drink pee! sniff it for hours, yet, but actually drink it?

MoreBeta Sun 23-Sep-12 20:01:21

Urine was collected and used for washing clothes in as well as it has ammonia in.

TunipTheVegemal Sun 23-Sep-12 20:04:16

y, and tanning, dyeing and all sorts of things.

herethereeverywhere Sun 23-Sep-12 20:45:27

Thanks MoreBeta smile

throckenholt Mon 24-Sep-12 07:55:06

Victoria's family had quite a few health issues - I once read a book about Vicky _ the oldest child, who marrried the Prussian Prince (who died early of throat cancer). It claimed both she and Victoria had a nervous disease that may have been porphyria. They wrote loads of letters to each other and many of them talked about their symptoms.

Northernlurkerisbackatwork Mon 24-Sep-12 08:11:24

Vicky's oldest daughter Charlotte is another potential porphyria sufferer apparently. Poor Vicky herself died from breast cancer after a horribly painful last few months - the soldiers around her castle asked to be moved to other areas because they could hear her screaming sad

Can I just address the inbreeding question - there is certainly some inter-marriage but both Victoria and Albert were frankly obsessed with the idea of getting 'strong' blood in. Victoria and Vicky ransack Europe looking for princesses for the younger brothers and health is an inportant issue for them. Plus Victoria wanted a dark eyed princess hmm She complains frequently about how frail the Prince of Wales' children are. Victoria was also considerably more 'open' to suggestions than many of her contemporaries. She objected to Beatrice's marriage to Prince Henry of Battenberg (yes like the cake!) because she didn't want Beatrice to get married at all. The rest of Europe and in particular the Prussian Royal Family were horrified because the Batternbergs were viewed as being not out of the top drawer of Royalty.
Royal matches were made from a choice of who was socially appropriate and who was the right religion - or would change to that religion. Eugenie mentioned below converted to catholicism for her marriage and Alix converted to the Russian Orthodox church. There weres quite a lot of marriages between the Russian and Greek Royal families because it was convenient for religion. When the Kaiser's younger sister (Vicky's daughter) Sophie married in to the Greek Royal family her brother and sister in law were so livid he threatened to forbid her from ever entering Germany again.

Northernlurkerisbackatwork Mon 24-Sep-12 08:13:59

Was this the book about Vicky? If not, then it's a cracking read too. Pakula's biography of Marie of Romania is good too and so is this Dd1 and I enjoyed that.

throckenholt Mon 24-Sep-12 08:39:39

Princess Vicky had a tough life I think - she wasn't welcomed by the Prussian establishment. Didn't her son have a withered arm as a result of a botched birth ? And he was pretty nasty to her as he got older.

I can't quite remember the book - not sure if it was that one. It was based on a lot of letters between Queen Victoria and Vicky.

MrsjREwing Mon 24-Sep-12 08:55:03

Osborn house told us that Battenburg cake was invented by Queen Vic's dd.

Northernlurkerisbehindyouboo Sun 14-Oct-12 18:35:35

There are lots of books of the letters between Vicky and Victoria. I think it's a fantastic read - full of politics interspersed with 'x relative is behaving terribly' and 'the nursemaid has given notice' etc. Vicky had major in law problems too.

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