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THE UK SECTION: FACTS AND LEGENDS IN BRITISH HISTORY

Stonehenge

The most famous of the prehistoric stone circles is Stonehenge, built between 1800 and 1500 B.C. The biggest stones are seven metres high with a further metres underground. Some of the stones were brought from South West Wales; imagine how difficult it was to transport these huge blocks of stone in those early days. It is thought that Stonehenge and the other stones circles were built on lines of magnetic power that cross the surface of the earth. Exactly why it was built is not known for certain; it may have been a temple for sun worship or a calendar for showing the movements of the sun and the planets.
If you want to know more about Stonehenge go to: http://www.amherst.edu/

Hadrian's Wall

The most impressive of the Roman remains is a wall, built right across the north of England. In the second century A.D. the Emperor Hadrian built this wall as the most northern frontier of the Roman Empire. It was very heavily fortified with a small fort every mile and larger forts as well. Its purpose was to protect Roman Britain against the warlike tribes that lived north of the wall, in what is now Scotland.
More info on the Hadrian's Wall here: http://www.hadrians-wall.org/

King Arthur

When the Romans left Britain, the land was unprotected against the invading Angles, Saxons and Jutes. They found conquest easy until a king called Arthur united the British and defeated the invaders in many battles. The result was that the Anglo-saxon advance was halted for about 50 years. Little more than this is known about Arthur except for a powerful legend of magical powers. This legend later became the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, a legend full of medieval chivalry and Christian symbols but also some of the earlier magic. But the story does not belong only to Britain; medieval French and German poets also wrote about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
More about King Arthur: http://www.britannia.com/and: http://freespace.virgin.net/

The Naked Lady and Peeping Tom

One of the most colourful stories to come out of Anglo-Saxon England is that of Lady Godiva. She lived in the 11th century and was the wife of Earl Leofric. According to the legend, when her husband demanded high taxes from the people of Coventry, she took their side. Her husband then dared her to ride naked through the streets of Coventry, promising her to lower the taxes if she did so. She agreed. When she rode naked through the town, all the grateful people of Coventry stayed indoors with their windows shut - all, that is, except a certain tailor called Tom who peeped through his window and was struck blind for daring to look. He became known as Peeping Tom, which is now an expression in the English language.
On Lady Godiva also look at: http://www.cwn.org.uk/

Robin Hood

Perhaps the most famous English legend is the story about Robin Hood and his merry men. According to the legend, Robin Hood lived during the reign of King Richard the Lionheart at the end of the 12th century. Richard spent most of his reign fighting abroad, in his lands in France and on the Crusades. While the King was away, England was ruled by his brother, John. Robin Hood was originally a nobleman and a supporter of Richard. But while the King was away John took Robin's lands and made him an outlaw. So Robin Hood went to live in Sherwood Forest where he collected his band of followers: Friar Tuck, Little John, Maid Marian, Will Scarlet, Alan a Dale, and the rest. He fought against John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. He robbed only those people who were rich and gave most of the money to the poor.
More on Robin Hood here: http://www.ub.rug.nl/

Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot

The Gunpowder Plot was an attempt by English Catholics to blow up the King as he opened Parliament on November 5th, 1605. But the conspiracy was discovered before November 5th because one Member of Parliament received a letter warning him not to attend Parliament on that day. The Houses of Parliament were secretly searched and in one of the cellars 36 barrels of gunpowder were found. When Guy Fawkes entered the cellar on November 5th to blow up the Houses of Parliament, soldiers were waiting there to arrest him. Nowadays, November 5th is called Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night. The night is celebrated all over England with fireworks and bonfires on which guys - effigies of Guy Fawkes - are burnt.
More on Guy Fawkes: http://www.innotts.co.uk/

The Mayflower

In 1620 a ship left Plymouth, bound for America. It was called the Mayflower and carried as its passengers the Pilgrim Fathers. They were a group of 35 Puritans who disliked the Church of England and English society. So they decided to set up a colony, a new society based on their own religion, in the New World. They were among the first of many millions to make a similar journey.
More on the Mayflower: http://members.aol.com/

Waterloo and Trafalgar

The early years of the 19th century produced two great British military leaders: one a soldier, the other a sailor. The soldier was the Duke of Wellington. After campaigns in Europe and India, Wellington became Commander-in-Chief of the British and allied armies against Napoleon. His most famous victory was Waterloo, which ended the Napoleonic Wars.
While Wellington was fighting the French on land, Admiral Nelson was fighting them at sea. In one battle he lost an eye; in another he lost his right arm. He also suffered badly from seasickness, and his love affair with Lady Hamilton caused many scandals.His finest hour was also his last. At the battle of Trafalgar (Southern Spain) in 1805 he gained the decisive naval victory of the war, but he was killed during the battle. The man and his victory are commemorated by Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square in London.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was one of the great men of the 20th century. By the time the century opened he had already fought as a soldier and was an elected politician. Yet his real moment of history did not come for a further 40 years. In 1940 he became Prime Minister and led Britain throughout the Second World War. His energy, oratory and stubbornness helped the allies to resist and finally defeat Hitler in 1945. In his life he was many things: army officer, journalist, politician, admiral, historian, and painter. He was born in mid-Victorian times before the invention of the motor car, and he died at the age of 91 after the Beatles had had their first hit.

Henry VIII

One of the most colourful of all English kings was Henry VIII (1509-1547). Henry VIII was married to his first wife for quite a long time, but he only had one daughter. He wanted a son and he wanted to marry the beautiful Ann Boleyn. But at that time England was a Roman Catholic country and the Pope refused to give Henry a divorce. So Henry asked his archbishop, Cardinal Wolesey, to help him. When Wolesey refused, Henry broke away from Rome and established the Church of England, which has been independent from Rome ever since. Wolesey tried to get friendly with the King again by giving him his own palace, Hampton Court, as a present. The King accepted it but never forgave Wolesey. Henry VIII used his power as head of the new Church to get a divorce whenever he wanted one. He was married six times in all, but he did not need a divorce every time - two of his Queens had their heads chopped off.
More on Henry VIII: http://greenwichpast.com/


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