Pete’s History Picks, 6th – 12th February

Guildford’s finest historical scholar (and only time-travelling schoolboy, I think) is back to throw some more light on key events from history. Take it away Master Tollywash.

I’m back again to bring you my highlights from the events that took place this week in history. And it was a pretty hectic one. Two wars involving Russia began, Wales got its first English prince (bet it was well chuffed) and Henry the Eighth became head of the Church of England. In different years, of course. So, here we go.

6th February, 1508 - Maximilian I proclaimed Holy Roman Emperor

Maximilian I - He looks a laugh-riot

Image attribution: Portrait by Albrecht Dürer

Yeah, you read that right. Holy Roman Emperor. I always thought the Roman Empire ended a long time before that (well that’s what I thought I learned when I went back to Roman times on my first time-travelling adventure). Well, Barford says I’m right and he also says some clever French guy called Voltaire agreed with me too. He said 'the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire’. This Maximilian guy, however, would have disagreed with me (well he would, wouldn’t he). He claimed he was the inheritor of the Roman Empire and that it had never ended (no idea how he worked that out). He ruled what is now Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, a little bit of Italy and a little bit of Poland - not really heartlands of the Roman Empire. Barford says they also elected their emperors. All sounds a bit nuts to me.

Oh, yeah, also on this day, Queen Elizabeth the Second became queen. Barford assures me it wasn’t the same day but was in 1952. I have my doubts - she seems pretty old.

February 7th, 1301 - Edward of Caernarfon becomes first English Prince of Wales

So, apparently Wales had princes before this, but they were Welsh and Wales was totally separate from England. That is until King Edward the First decided he liked the look of it and invaded. He blamed the Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (yeah, no idea how you say that one), for starting it by not paying homage to him as King of England. Once he had defeated Llywelyn and taken Wales as English territory, he put his son, also called Edward, up to be the new Prince of Wales. There is a story that Edward the First told his new Welsh subjects that he would give them a prince born in Wales and who didn’t speak a word of English. As his son was a baby who had just been born in Wales this was kind of true. I hope that story is true. Seems like the kind of thing Edward the First would do. Anyway, on this day his son, Edward, became Prince of Wales and this is why the monarch’s eldest son (like Prince Charles now) has been the Prince of Wales ever since.

February 8th, 1904 - Japan attacks Russian ships in Port Arthur (now in China), starting the Russo-Japanese War

So, apparently Japan basically ruled Korea (the place that annoying K-Pop comes from) from the late-19th century until the end of World War Two. By 1904, they were worried that Russia was going to try and nick it off them, so they pre-empted the Russians and attacked them in a port they were renting off the Chinese (all a bit confusing, I know). This led to a war which Russia eventually lost and meant Japan’s control of Korea was confirmed. Until this point, the European powers, including Britain, France and the now defeated Russians hadn’t thought much of Japan. This gave them all a nasty wake-up call.

Woah! This looks mental and pretty scary

Image attribution: Le Patriote Illustré, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

February 11th, 1531 - Henry the Eighth recognised as supreme head of the Church in England

As you may know, I met this guy on my most recent time-travelling adventure (yeah, Mum still doesn’t know and let’s keep it that way). Because the Pope, who was in charge of the Church in England until this point, wouldn’t let him divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, Henry decided he didn’t want to have to listen to him anymore. So he broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and said he was in charge now and could decide whether or not he divorced his wife. I’d love it if I could just tell Mum and Dad that I’m breaking away from the Tollywash family and that I will now decide whether or not I can have Haribo sweets and chocolate cake for dinner. My Auntie Cheryl (she’s a history teacher by the way), was telling me that this was one of the biggest and most important changes in British history. Even though she’s mad as a brush, she might be right.

The great fatso himself - I didn't call him that to his face.

February 12th, The Great Northern War begins between Denmark–Norway, Saxony and Russia and the Swedish Empire.

Before they got into flat-pack furniture and super-tasty meatballs, the Swedes were pretty scary guys. So scary in fact, that in 1700 the Russians were worried about them and decided they needed to gang up on them with help from two other states. So, on this day, over three hundred years ago, they all went to war. Now you’d think three against one would be a pretty easy fight, but those Swedes didn’t go down easily. It took 21 years for Denmark-Norway, Saxony and Russia to finally defeat them. This victory ended Sweden’s position as the most powerful state in the region and began the dominance of Russia.

I hope you enjoyed my latest look through history. If you want to find out more about my own historical adventures, Barford’s offering a free ebook (what a generous guy). Just sign up to his email list and he’ll send it over to you.

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