July 25th 1865: James Barry dies

On this day in 1865, British surgeon Dr. James Barry died, upon which it was discovered that he was biologically female. Born Margaret Ann Bulkley, daughter of a grocer from Cork, she wanted to become a doctor but as a female was barred from medical school. Bulkley, her family, and liberal friends of her uncle (artist James Barry) concocted a plan to disguise her as a man under her uncle’s name and enroll in medical school in Edinburgh to allow her to fulfill her dream of being a doctor. Upon graduating medical school - technically the first woman to do so in Britain - Barry enlisted as a surgeon in the British Army. The plan was initially for her to move to Venezuela as a female doctor, but this fell through and Barry decided to continue in a male role. He served in India and Africa and rose to the high rank of Inspector General of military hospitals. Barry was a skilled surgeon, who had the highest recovery rate for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War and performed one of the first successful Caesarean sections; the grateful parents of this child named him James Barry Munnik Hertzog, and he went on to become Prime Minister of South Africa. Barry also focused on improving public health among the general populace, promoting improved sanitation standards and good diets. Barry was reportedly a difficult character, once arguing with Florence Nightingale, and often fought duels in defense of his honour when someone commented on his high-pitched voice and diminutive stature. When James Barry died of dysentery in 1865, despite once requesting that his body not be examined upon his death, it was discovered that Barry was biologically female. A nurse even found marks which indicated that Barry had once given birth. Army officials were so horrified that they had been tricked into accepting a female doctor that they locked away Dr. Barry’s service records, but the remarkable life of James Barry has since come to light and proved an object of fascination for historians.


London then and now: Hybrid images show changing face of capital’s landmarks

Images taken from the early 20th century around the capital’s famous landmarks have been cleverly juxtaposed with snaps from today - and while the landscape looks vastly different there are many elements which have stayed the same. The pictures were released by the Museum of London to launch Streetmuseum 2.0 iPhone app, which is available on iTunes from today. The app guides users to sites across London, where hidden histories of the city dramatically appear, illuminated thanks to the museum’s extensive art and photographic collections. (x)

I have always been faithful to the King my lord; but perhaps I have not always shown to him such a perfect humility and reverence as his graciousness and courtesy deserved, and the honor he hath done me required. I confess that I have often had jealous fantasies against him which I had not wisdom or strength to repress. But God knows that I have not otherwise trespassed against him.

Sophia Duleep Singh, Part 1: Princess in Exile
  • Sophia Duleep Singh, Part 1: Princess in Exile
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class

We’re covering the story of Sophia Duleep Singh, exiled Indian princess who became a suffragette, in two parts. Today, we’re telling the stories of her grandfather, her father, and how she and her sisters came to be dependent upon Queen Victoria for their survival. On Wednesday, we’ll discuss the role she played in the movement for women’s suffrage in Britain. 

Here’s a link to our notes and research

Bamba, Catharine and Sophia Duleep Singh dressed for their formal debut


April 10th 1912: Titanic sets sail

On this day in 1912, the RMS Titanic, set sail from Southampton on her maiden and only voyage; the intended destination was New York, but the ship never made it across the Atlantic. The Titanic was the largest passenger liner the world had ever seen, and was remarkable for its opulence, which attracted notable dignitaries to its debut voyage. The vessel was built at Belfast for White Star Line, and was intended to trump the company’s rivals at Cunard. It was lauded as an ‘unsinkable’ ship, but subsequent examinations have suggested some fatal flaws in the ship’s design plus a lack of lifeboats, which only could accommodate half the passengers. Just four days after setting sail, on April 14th at around 11.40pm, the Titanic hit an iceberg. The collision caused a massive gash in the ship’s hull, dooming the vessel to sink. As the opulent ship filled with water and slowly sank, its over two thousand passengers rushed to lifeboats, but the evacuation was haphazard, with lifeboats being lowered not at full capacity. There are numerous famous stories of the ship’s final hours, including the elderly Straus couple who stayed in their cabin to die together, the violin players continuing to perform as the ship sank, and Benjamin Guggenheim who changed into his formal dress and declared “We are dressed in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.”  The Titanic finally sank at around 2.20am, leaving thousands to die of hypothermia in the freezing ocean. Over 1,500 people died in the tragedy, with around 700 survivors being rescued by the Cunard’s Carpathia. The demise of the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic shocked the world, and the story of the tragic fate of a symbol of early twentieth century optimism continues to captivate the public mind.

On being British

I was teaching at a Summer School this summer and one of my students told me he did not feel British, because he didn’t look British. He was black. That broke my heart a little. So I started questioning the kids on British history, and oh they fit in it and all the kids from ethnic minorities said they felt excluded from it. They felt their history only began with the end of the empire.

They were wrong.

I once thought the same thing.

I was also wrong.

It was thanks to medievalpoc that my eyes were opened. And my teaching, my research, my being, have changed so much because of that.

I will never forget the expression on their faces as I told my students a different history than what they were told in schools. I reinforced that they are British, they have always been British and they are part of British history.

And then I told them to start questioning what they are being told in schools, and to get on Tumblr and follow medievalpoc .

I hope they did.

I don’t know why people are always rushing to seize the crown in Shakespeare plays? Historically, Henry IV had such bad head lice that it grossed out the Archbishop of Canterbury at his coronation. Why the heck would his son snatch the crown off his father’s infested scalp before he was even dead? Like, chill, put it in a plastic bag and wait for two weeks.


June 7th 1954: Alan Turing dies

On this day in 1954, the British mathematician and scientist Alan Turing died. Turing is considered the father of computer science and artificial intelligence with his invention of the ‘Turing machine’ - a precursor to the modern computer. He was also a crucial part of England’s code breaking team at Bletchley Park during World War Two, developing ways to interpret German messages from the Enigma machine. The work of Turing and his fellow code breakers was a great boost to the Allied war effort, supposedly shortening the war by as many as two to four years. However, in 1952 he was arrested for homosexuality - which was still illegal in Britain - and accepted chemical castration rather than prison. Turing suffered side effects from the treatment and two years later died from cyanide poisoning, supposedly from an apple found by his bed. Whilst some claim it was accidental, an inquest determined Turing had committed suicide due to the persecution he suffered. In 2009, following a popular online petition, Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a posthumous apology to Alan Turing.

“We’re sorry, you deserved so much better”
- Gordon Brown, 2009


On this day, 24 January, in 1965 Sir Winston Churchill, aged 90, slipped quietly from the world after a life perhaps better lived than any other before or since. It had taken eleven strokes to fell the man, a lifelong enthusiast of fine alcohol, Cuban cigars, perilous situations and favorable odds. Exactly 70 years on, he had died on the same date as his father, Lord Randolph Churchill.

It was too full a life to abridge here in any reasonable way, and do any reasonable justice. He was however, a Victorian gentleman, progressive in thought for Britons and the people of her dominions. A writer of immense talent and poetic historian; a cavalry officer and wartime leader, he was the last lion of the British Empire.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston S. Churchill


Queens of England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom

House of Wessex and Denmark (selected)

Ealhswith (unknown – 902) Daughter of Æthelred Mucil and Eadburh; wife of Ælfrēd the Great.
Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury (unknown – 944) Daughter of Wynflaed; wife of Ēadmund I.
Ælfthryth (c. 945 – 1000 or 1001) Daughter of Ordgar, Ealdorman of Devon; wife of Ēadgār I.
Ælfgifu of York (c. 945 or 952 – 1004) Daughter of Thored, Ealdorman of York; first wife of Æþelræd Unræd.
Emma de Normandie (c. 985 – 1052) Daughter of Richard “Sans-Peur”, duc de Normandie and Gunnora; second wife of Æþelræd Unræd and Knútr inn ríki.
Ealdgyth (c. 992 - aft. 1016) Wife of Ēadmund II.
Ælfgifu of Northampton (c. 990 – aft. 1036) Daughter of Ælfhelm of York and Wulfrune; first wife of Knútr inn ríki.
Ealdgyth of Wessex (c. 1025 – 1075) Daughter of Godƿin, Earl of Wessex and Gȳða Þorkelsdōttir; wife of Ēadweard the Confessor.
Ealdgyth of Mercia (fl. c. 1057–1066) Daughter of Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia; wife of Harold Godƿinson.

House of Normandy

Mathilde de Flandre (c. 1031 – 1083) Daughter of Baudouin V, comte de Flandre and Adèle de France; wife of William I.
Matilda of Scotland (c. 1080 – 1118) Daughter of Máel Coluim III of Scotland and Margaret of Wessex; first wife of Henry I.
Adeliza von Löwen (c. 1103 – 1151) Daughter of Gottfried VI., Herzog von Niederlothringen and Ida von Namur; second wife of Henry I.
Empress Mathilde (1102 – 1167) Daughter of Henry I and Matilda of Scotland.

House of Blois

Mathilde de Boulogne (c. 1105 – 1152) Daughter of Eustache III, comte de Boulogne and Mary of Scotland; wife of Stephen I.

House of Plantagenet

Alienòr d'Aquitània (1122 or 1124 – 1204) Daughter of Guilhèm X de Peitieus, duc d’Aquitània and Aenor de Châtellerault; wife of Henry II.
Marguerite de France (1157 – aft. 1197) Daughter of Louis VII de France and Constanza de Castilla; wife of Henry the Young King.
Berengela Nafarroakoa (c. 1165–1170 – 1230) Daughter of Antso VI.a Nafarroakoa and Sancha de Castilla; wife of Richard I.
Isabella, countess of Gloucester (c. 1173 – 1217) Daughter of William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester and Hawise de Beaumont; first wife of John I.
Isabelle, comtesse d'Angoulême (c. 1188 – 1246) Daughter of Aymar Taillefer, comte d'Angoulême and Alix de Courtenay; second wife of John I.
Alienòr de Provença (c. 1223 – 1291) Daughter of Ramon Berenguier V, comte de Provença and Beatrice de Savoia; wife of Henry III.
Leonor de Castilla (1241 – 1290) Daughter of Fernando III de Castilla and Jehanne de Dammartin, comtesse de Ponthieu; first wife of Edward I.
Marguerite de France (c. 1279 – 1318) Daughter of Philippe III de France and Maria van Brabant; second wife of Edward I.
Isabelle de France (1295 – 1358) Daughter of Philippe IV de France and Jehanne Ire de Navarre; wife of Edward II.
Philippine de Hainaut (1314 – 1369) Daughter of Guillaume Ier, comte de Hainaut and Jehanne de Valois; wife of Edward III.
Anna Lucemburská (1366 – 1394) Daughter of Karel IV., Holy Roman Emperor and Elżbieta pomorska; first wife of Richard II.
Isabelle de France (1389 – 1409) Daughter of Charles VI de France and Elisabeth von Bayern; second wife of Richard II.

House of Lancaster

Jehanne de Navarre (c. 1370 – 1437) Daughter of Charles II de Navarre and Jehanne de France; second wife of Henry IV.
Catherine de France (1401 – 1437) Daughter of Charles VI de France and Elisabeth von Bayern; wife of Henry V.
Marguerite d'Anjou (1430 – 1482) Daughter of René Ier de Naples and Isabella von Lothringen; wife of Henry VI.

House of York

Elizabeth Wydeville (c. 1437 – 1492) Daughter of Richard Wydeville, 1st Baron Rivers and Jacquette de Luxembourg; wife of Edward IV.
Anne Neville (1456 – 1485) Daughter of Richard Neville and Anne Beauchamp, 16th Countess of Warwick; wife of Richard III.

House of Tudor

Elizabeth of York (1466 – 1503) Daughter of Edward IV of England and Elisabeth Wydeville; wife of Henry VII.
Catalina de Aragón (1485 – 1536) Daughter of Ferrando II d'Aragón and Isabel I de Castilla; first wife of Henry VIII.
Anne Boleyn (c. 1501 – 1536) Daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire and Lady Elizabeth Howard; second wife of Henry VIII.
Jane Seymour (c. 1508 – 1537) Daughter of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth; third wife of Henry VIII.
Anna von Kleve (1515 – 1557) Daughter of Johann III., Herzog von Jülich-Kleve-Berg and Maria von Jülich-Berg; fourth wife of Henry VIII.
Catherine Howard (c.1521 – 1542) Daughter of Lord Edmund Howard and Jocasta Culpeper; fifth wife of Henry VIII.
Catherine Parr (1512 – 1548) Daughter of Sir Thomas Parr and Maud Green; sixth wife of Henry VIII.
Lady Jane Grey (1536/1537 – 1554) Daughter of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk and Lady Frances Brandon.
Mary I (1516 – 1558) Daughter of Henry VIII and Catalina de Aragón.
Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) Daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

House of Stuart

Anna af Danmark (1574 – 1619) Daughter of Frederik 2. af Danmark og Norge and Dorothea von Sachsen-Lauenburg; wife of James I.
Henriette-Marie de France (1609 – 1669) Daughter of Henri IV de France and Maria de’ Medici; wife of Charles I.
Catarina de Bragança (1638 – 1705) Daughter of João IV de Portugal and Luisa Francisca de Guzmán; wife of Charles II.
Maria Beatrice d'Este (1658 – 1718) Daughter of Alfonso IV d'Este, duca di Modena and Maria Caterina Farnese; second wife of James II.
Mary II (1662 – 1694) Daughter of James II of England and Anne Hyde.
Anne I (1665 – 1714) Daughter of James II of England and Anne Hyde.

House of Hanover

Caroline von Brandenburg-Ansbach (1683 – 1737) Daughter of Johann Friedrich, markgraaf von Brandenburg-Ansbach and Eleonore von Sachsen-Eisenach; wife of George II.
Sophie Charlotte von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744 – 1818) Daughter of Karl Ludwig Friedrich zu Mecklenburg, Prinz von Mirow and Elisabeth Albertine von Sachsen-Hildburghausen; wife of George III.
Caroline von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1768 – 1821) Daughter of Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Fürst und Herzog von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel and Augusta of Great Britain; second wife of George IV.
Adelheid von Sachsen-Meiningen (1792 – 1849) Daughter of Georg I., Herzog von Sachsen-Meiningen and Louise Eleonore zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg; wife of William IV.
Victoria I (1819 – 1901) Daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent and Victoire von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld.

House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha aka Windsor

Alexandra af Danmark (1844 – 1925) Daughter of Christian 9. af Danmark and Luise Karoline von Hessen-Kassel; wife of Edward VII.
Mary of Teck (1867 – 1953) Daughter of Franz, Herzog von Teck and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge; wife of George V.
Wallis Warfield Simpson (1896 – 1986) Daughter of Teackle Wallis Warfield and Alice Montague; wife of Edward VIII.
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon(1900 – 2002) Daughter of Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck; wife of George VI.
Elizabeth II (b. 1926) Daughter of George VI of the United Kingdom and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.

In a skirmish with one of these advance guards, the Hapsburg troops captured a Mongol officer, who, to the surprise and consternation of the Christians, turned out to be a middle-aged literate Englishman who had made his way through the Holy Land, where he seemed to have developed a talent for learning languages and transcribing them. There is some speculation that with his level of education and his flight from England, he may have been involved in the effort to force King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. After fleeing England and facing excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church, he ended up in the service of the more tolerant Mongols. The presence of a European, and a former Christian, among the Mongol army made it clear that the Mongols really were humans and not a horde of demons, but the terrified Christians killed the English apostate before they could get a good accounting of the Mongols’ mysterious mission outside Vienna
—  “The Discovery and Conquest of Europe.” From Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by J. Weatherford.


BY OPHELIA HOLT The Ramsgate Tunnels in England were reopened this May after 75 years of lying dormant. Originally known as the “Tunnel Railway,” a narrow gauge track that connected neighboring Broadstairs to Ramsgate, it went through a variety of guises over the years, from WWII facility to tourist attraction. Descend into Atlas Obscura