On this day in history : 22nd March 1744 – The first book of English nursery rhymes, called ‘Tommy Thumb’s Song Book’ is published – featuring many rhymes that are still well-known today….
The full title of the book was actually ~ ‘Tommy Thumb’s Song Book for all little Masters and Misses; to be sung to them by their Nurses ’till they can sing themselves…. By Nurse Lovechild’….
The book was published by Mary Cooper of London. She was the widow of publisher Thomas Cooper – and after his death she continued the business…. A few weeks after the book was published a sequel followed – ‘Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book’….
No copy of the first volume remains – but a copy of the second is held at the British Library….for years it was thought to be the only one in existence…. However, in 2001 another copy surfaced – it sold for £45,000….
The book contains forty nursery rhymes, many of which we still teach to our children today….
‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’, ‘Little Tommy Tucker’, ‘Who Killed Cock Robin’….
‘Hickory Dickory Dock’, ‘Little Robin Redbreast’, ‘Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross’….
‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’, ‘Boys and Girls Come Out to Play’, ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’….
‘Ladybird Ladybird’, ‘Mary Mary Quite Contrary’, ‘Oranges and Lemons’….
Such lovely childhood memories…. Ironically, the engraver who did the illustrations for Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, was one George Bickham Jnr….who was sued by the government of the time for selling pornographic prints….
On this day in history : 21st March 1556 – Thomas Cranmer, England’s first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, is burnt at the stake as a heretic under the orders of Queen Mary I…
Thomas Cranmer served as Archbishop of Canterbury between 1533 and 1556 and was a leader of the English Reformation…. It was he who dissolved the first marriage of King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon, allowing him to marry Anne Boleyn….
It was also he (along with Thomas Cromwell) who supported the translation of the Bible into the English language…. And in 1549 he helped to complete the Book of Common Prayer….
After King Henry died his only son, Edward VI came to the throne….but was to die at the age of 15-years-old…. Before his death he made it known that his wish was for his Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey, to succeed him – even though he had a half-sister, Mary – but who was a Catholic…. Thomas Cranmer supported this decision….
Lady Jane Grey was to reign for just nine days before she and her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, were executed…. Mary took her place as Queen, determined to restore the Catholic Church….she also had an intense dislike for Cranmer, holding him responsible for the annulment of her parent’s marriage and effectively making her illegitimate….
On the 13th of November 1553 Cranmer was tried and found guilty of treason….he was condemned to die…. He was imprisoned in Bocardo Prison, Oxford – held alongside him were two others, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley…. On the 12th of September 1555 all three men went on trial for heresy….Ridley and Latimer were found guilty at the trial and were burned at the stake on the 16th of October…. Cranmer’s case had to be referred to Rome – and their decision was delivered in the December of 1555…. Cranmer had been stripped of his position as Archbishop and the authorities had permission to decide his fate….
Although Cranmer made a total of five recantations renouncing his Protestant theology and declaring that he was returning to the Catholic Church, Mary – wanting revenge – set a date for his execution….
On the day of the execution Cranmer was forced to make one last public recantation…. It was a wet day and it was decided to use the church of St. Mary’s in Oxford…. From high in the pulpit, for all to hear, he gave the prayer and swore to obey the Crown…. It was then in a last act of defiance – he no longer had anything to lose – that he renounced all of his previous recantations….
“And for as much as my hand hath offended, writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for when I come to the fire, it shall first be burned”….
“And as for the Pope, I refuse him as Christ’s enemy, and antichrist, with all his false doctrine”….
“And as for the sacrament, I believe as I have taught in my book against the bishop of Winchester, which my book teacheth so true a doctrine of the sacrament, that it shall stand in the last day before the judgement of God, where the papistical doctrines contrary thereto shall be ashamed to show their face”….
True to his word, once at the stake, as the fire ignited and the flames took hold, Cranmer thrust his right hand into them – holding it there as it charred – it was a long time before the fire engulfed the rest of his body….
Today Cranmer is remembered, along with Ridley and Latimer, as a Protestant martyr…. A memorial stands in Oxford – the inscription reads….
“To the Glory of God, and in grateful commemoration of His servants, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Prelates of the Church of England, who near this spot yielded their bodies to be burned, bearing witness to the sacred truths which they had affirmed and maintained against the errors of the Church of Rome, and rejoicing that to them it was given not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake; this monument was erected by public subscription in the year of our Lord God, MDCCCXLI
On this day in history : 20th March 1974 – An attempt is made to kidnap Princess Anne as she and her husband Captain Mark Phillips are being driven down Pall Mall….
The 23-year-old Princess and her husband were being chauffeur-driven back to Buckingham Palace after attending a charity event…. It was around 8pm when a white Ford Escort blocked their way, forcing the Rolls Royce to stop…. A man got out of the Ford, brandishing two handguns…. The Princess’s body-guard, Inspector James Beaton and the chauffeur, Alex Callender attempted to apprehend the man – but both were shot…. Despite his injuries Inspector Beaton got to his feet to try and stop the gunman again – and again….in total he was shot three times…. Also shot was a passer-by who tried to help – tabloid journalist, Brian McConnell….
The gunman then forced his way into the Rolls Royce…. He ordered Princess Anne out – to which she replied….“not bloody likely”…. She did eventually get out though and as the gunman followed after her another passer-by, former boxer Ron Russell, who had positioned his car to stop the Ford from escaping, struck the gunman on the back of the head…. Russell was then able to lead the Princess to safety….
Meanwhile, after hearing gun shots PC Michael Hills had rushed to the scene – he tried to detain the gunman – but was himself to be shot in the stomach…. The gunman attempted to run but was pursued by Detective Constable Peter Edmonds, who brought him to the ground and managed to disarm him….
The gunman was Ian Ball, a 26-year-old unemployed labourer, who suffered from a mental illness…. When his car was searched handcuffs, tranquillisers and a ransom note were found…. The note was addressed to the Queen and demanded that £2 million be paid to the National Health Service…. Ball later claimed he did it to highlight the lack of mental health care available…. He was prosecuted for attempted murder and received a sentence of life imprisonment – and was placed in a psychiatric hospital…. His remains the closest attempt anyone has ever made on abducting a member of the royal family….
All four men who were shot thankfully recovered…. Inspector James Beaton later received the George Cross….whilst PC Michael Hills and Ron Russell were given the George Medal…. Chauffeur Alex Callender, journalist Brian McConnell and Detective Constable Peter Edmonds were all awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for their bravery….
Russell later revealed that the Queen had said to him as he received his award….“The medal is from the Queen, the thank you is from Anne’s mother”….
On this day in history : 19th March 1965 – An article is published in the Tailor and Cutter magazine asking the Rolling Stones to start wearing ties – to save the tie makers from financial ruin….
“With position comes responsibility. It is a thought we recommend to the Rolling Stones…. We would urge pop stars everywhere to give at least passing consideration to the financial straits in which the manufacturers are likely to find themselves if the next generation goes eternally open-necked”…. ~ Tailor and Cutter magazine….
Mick Jagger responded with the quip ~ “The trouble with the tie is that it could dangle in the soup”….
Taylor and Cutter was a dedicated magazine for the tailoring world and had been started by a passionate, wild haired and bearded Scotsman named John Williamson in 1866…. The first edition of the publication demanded better working conditions for the craftsman of the industry….
Williamson moved to London later that same year and saw there was an opportunity for a regular publication….communicating current trends and technical information to the tailoring community and its associated trades…. Two publications were launched ~ ‘The Tailor’ and ‘The Cutter’ ~ covering news from the world of tailoring, pictures of the latest fashions and creations, articles and advertisements – from tailor’s chalk to cloth merchants…. Williamson launched his magazines in September 1866 with the financial backing of wealthy benefactor Angelica Patience Fraser…. Soon the two publications merged into one….
With the belief that tailors should strive to better themselves Williamson wrote in 1869…. “Our mission is to put a superior class of literature dealing with the science and art of the trade into the hands of every tailor”…. From 1884 a separate journal for women’s tailoring was published….
By the 1960s men’s attire had become far more casual….suits, collars and ties tending to be kept for the office and formal occasions…. An even bigger threat to the tie being the popularity of the polo neck and the leisure shirt…. Ready to wear, off the peg tailoring meant there became a large drop in readership of Tailor and Cutter…. So it was in 1972 that the final edition was printed…. Meanwhile the tie still has its place in nearly every man’s wardrobe….
On this day in history : 18th March 1925 – Fire destroys two floors of Madame Tussaud’s in London and many of the waxworks melt – leaving a grotesque scene….
The fire was discovered at 10.30pm and by 11.30pm the top floor was a raging inferno. One eyewitness, as reported by the Guardian at the time said flames leapt 50 feet high from the roof of the building – “The wax models could be distinctly heard sizzling themselves to death”…. Those waxworks represented world leaders, members of parliament, historical characters, sports personalities….and infamous criminals. A macabre scene of melted faces, charred twisted limbs and broken torsos…. Also lost was an important collection of Napoleonic relics, including Napoleon’s deathbed and carriages….
Dozens of fire engines attended…. The fire chief, Mr. A.R. Dyer had been enjoying a night out at a nearby theatre and arrived to start tackling the fire in full evening dress…. It took and hour and a half to bring the blaze under control and by midnight it was out…. The whole top floor was destroyed, the roof had collapsed, leaving the Planetarium dome a mere skeleton. Lower floors of the building suffered severe water damage….
Thankfully nobody was injured…. One survivor was a parrot in a cage – at first nobody was sure if it was a waxwork or real…. However, a few moments after being brought outside into the ‘fresh’ air it fully revived…. Evidently it was a talking parrot because apparently on recovery its first words were “This is a rotten business”….
Luckily the Baker Street attraction of Madame Tussaud’s was insured. In 1928 it reopened – complete with new cinema and restaurant…. Thankfully all the moulds for the waxworks were stored at a separate site….