On this day in history….27th February 1678

On this day in history : 27th February 1678 – The 1st Earl of Shaftesbury is freed from the Tower of London after being held in contempt of Parliament….

NPG 3893; Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury after John Greenhill
Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury after John Greenhill, oil on canvas, (circa 1672-1673) – Public domain

Anthony Ashley Cooper was born in Dorset in 1621…. The son of a wealthy landowner, he was educated at Oxford University and then Lincoln’s Inn before entering Parliament in 1640….

At the beginning of the Civil War he initially supported King Charles I but had later switched his allegiance to the Parliamentarians…. However, in protest of Cromwell’s dictatorial methods of rule he resigned in 1655….and joined the campaign to restore the Monarchy….

After the restoration, with the crown now being held by Charles II, Cooper was made Chancellor of the Exchequer…. He was created Earl of Shaftesbury by the King in 1672 – and for his continued loyal support was then made Lord Chancellor….

NPG D11961; Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury by Edward Lutterell or Luttrell, published by John Smith, after John Greenhill
Shaftesbury as Lord Chancellor by Edward Lutterell or Luttrell, published by John Smith, after John Greenhill, mezzotint, (circa 1672-1673) – Public domain

However, after questioning the role of Charles II’s brother, James, he found himself out of favour with the King and was dismissed from his position…. He had argued that a new parliament should be called, one that would guarantee and protect the Church of England – and exclude Catholics…. Unbeknown to him Charles had secretly become a Catholic…. Shaftesbury began to stir up unrest amongst his own supporters….

Parliament met on the 15th of February 1677…. Shaftesbury and three other Peers introduced a motion declaring that no parliament was legally in existence…. The rest of the House of Commons was outraged and rejected their argument…. It was claimed that the four had committed contempt of Parliament and must apologise immediately…. All four refused and were sent to the Tower of London….

The other three apologised and were soon released – but Shaftesbury still refused…. It took a year before he finally made his apology to the King and Parliament….he was released on the 25th of February 1678….

He was reinstated to a position of power, being made President of the Privy Council…. Using his position of advisory power he urged the King to remarry and produce an heir…. but the King wanted his Catholic brother, James, to succeed him…. Angered by Shaftesbury once more Charles dismissed him again….

King Charles II – Public domain

In July 1681 Shaftesbury was arrested and charged with high treason and returned to the Tower of London…. However, he was to be released in November 1681 after the Grand Jury threw out the charges against him…. Deciding not to take any chances, as he feared re-arrest, Shaftesbury fled to the Netherlands – where he died in 1683…. At his request his body was brought back to Dorset….

On this day in history….26th February 1960

On this day in history : 26th February 1960 – An Alitalia DC-7 bound for New York crashes into a cemetery in Shannon, Ireland, shortly after take-off – killing 34 out of the 52 people onboard….img_6044

Italian airline Alitalia flight AZ618 4-engine propellor Douglas DC-7C was on route from Rome to New York and had stopped at Shannon for an unscheduled refuelling stop…. Shannon International Airport, in County Clare between Ennis and Limerick, was at the time a major refuelling stop for transatlantic flights….

After a brief stop of 45 minutes or so the aircraft took off to continue its journey at 1.34am, on a cold but clear Friday morning…. There had been no contact from the ‘plane and it seemed all was well – but about a mile from the airport the DC-7 crashed…. It struck the old graveyard situated beside the ruins of the 10th century Clanloghan Parish Church…. Its port wing-tip hit the wall of the cemetery, damaging some of the headstones on the south eastern side…. Some of the traditional family graves would still have been in use…. The aircraft then ploughed on, ending up in a nearby field before exploding and disintegrating…. After its refuelling stop the DC-7 was laden with some 7,000 gallons of fuel….the explosion was heard 17 miles away….img_6041

Thankfully the ‘plane was not full but out of the 52 onboard 11 of the 12 crew and 23 of the 40 passengers were killed….the other 18 were seriously injured…. The surviving cabin crew member had been seated at the rear of the aircraft…. Wreckage was scattered over a large area – bodies were found up to a mile away….img_6046

The aircraft had failed to gain enough height to clear the hill top…. At the official crash investigation no clear treason could be found as to the cause…. It could only be assumed that the DC-7, which had made its maiden flight in 1958, had rapidly lost height whilst making a steep turn to the left….img_6042

On this day in history….25th February 1914

On this day in history : 25th February 1914 – The death of Sir John Tenniel – the illustrator and satirical artist known for his cartoons in Punch Magazine and illustrations in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland….

Sir John Tenniel – Self portrait c.1889 – Public domain

Tenniel was born in Bayswater, London on the 28th of February 1820…. His father, John Baptist Tenniel, was a fencing instructor and his mother, Eliza Maria Tenniel, a dancer…. He attended the Royal Academy and in 1836, at the age of just 16, submitted a piece of artwork to the Exhibition of the Society of British Artists….

At the age of 20 he was involved in a fencing accident whilst practicing with his father, which cost him the sight in his right eye…. He never let on to his father the severity of his injury – not wanting to make him feel worse than he already did….

It was in 1845 that he submitted a 16 foot cartoon as an entry to a competition for a mural design for decoration in the new Palace of Westminster…. He won a commission for a fresco in the ‘Hall of Poets’ situated in the House of Lords…. He also received £100….

His career with Punch Magazine began in 1850 – working alongside John Leech as a cartoonist, succeeding Richard (Dickie) Doyle after his resignation…. This career was to last over 50 years, gradually he was to take over completely producing the weekly satirical political contribution to the magazine….

‘Dropping the Pilot’ – commenting on the forced resignation of Otto von Bismarck from Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany’s government in 1890 – one of Tenniel’s most well known cartoons for Punch – Public domain

He produced some 2,000 cartoons for Punch – and also worked on other illustration projects, such as Shirley Brooks’s ‘The Gordium Knot’ in 1860, Thomas Moore’s ‘Lalla Rookh’ in 1861 and a collaboration with John Leech and friend George Cruikshank on ‘The Ingoldsby Legends‘ in 1864….

Cartoon criticising the police for their inability to find the Whitechapel murderer….22nd September 1888 – Public domain

Tenniel married Julia Giani in 1854, the daughter of an Italian family from Liverpool…. They lived in Maida Hill – but tragically after only two years of marriage Julia was to die from tuberculosis…. Tenniel was devastated and never remarried….

It was during the 1860s that he produced the illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there’….

Carroll was notoriously fussy about the illustrations for his book and gave Tenniel a long list of instructions and requirements…. When the first 42 illustrations were submitted Carroll only liked one…. When asked to illustrate the second book Tenniel initially refused…. Carroll approached many other illustrators but none met his standards – after two and a half years of persuasion Tenniel finally agreed to illustrate ‘Through the Looking Glass’….

Even with Carroll’s stipulations Tenniel still had freedom to interpret the drawings as he visualised them – and so his style is recognisable in them…. Carroll even recalled the first edition run of his book because Tenniel was unhappy about the print quality of his drawings….

Tenniel was knighted for his artistic achievements by Queen Victoria in 1893…. He retired from Punch in 1901 and died in 1914 at the age of 93….

On this day in history….24th February 1920

On this day in history : 24th February 1920 – Nancy Astor becomes the first woman to speak in the House of Commons – following her election as an MP three months earlier….

Nancy Astor in 1923 – Public domain

Nancy Witcher Langhorne was born in Virginia, USA and in 1904, at the age of 26, she moved to England…. Two years later she married Waldorf Astor, a wealthy newspaper proprietor, who was to become Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton…. They had five children – four sons and a daughter….

After the death of his father in 1919 Waldorf Astor was to inherit a Peerage, making him 2nd Viscount Astor, which in turn gave Nancy the title of Viscountess…. Waldorf had to give up his seat in Parliament in order to sit in the House of Lords….and so he encouraged and helped to promote Nancy in her stand for his old seat in the following by-election on the 15th of November…. She won – with 51% of the votes, more than her Liberal and Labour opponents put together….although she had to wait until the 28th of November for the results to be announced….

Viscountess Astor – Public domain

On the 1st of December 1919 Nancy entered the House of Commons to take her oath…. She was sponsored by Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Arthur Balfour, President of the Council and a former Prime Minister….

The previous year had seen the 1918 Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act passed…. It is often wrongly thought Viscountess Astor was the first woman to be elected to Parliament…. That honour actually goes to Irish Republican Constance Markievicz in 1918 – she did not take her seat, as she was residing in Holloway at the time as a member of Sinn Fein – and had refused to take her oath….

Nancy Astor, with her American ways, did not always stick to the rules….On her very first day in the Commons she was called to order for chatting with a colleague – she was totally oblivious to the fact that she was the cause of all the commotion going on around her…. She also had to learn to dress in a more appropriate manner – and to avoid areas in the Houses of Parliament frequented by the men, such as the bars and smoking rooms…. Hostility was all around her; many of the men saw her presence as an annoyance – one in particular, MP Horatian Bottomley, had such a problem with her being there that he actively sought to ruin her career….

With her outspoken views, advocating woman’s rights and calling for stricter restrictions on alcohol, Nancy would interrupt speeches in Parliament and heckle…. During her maiden speech, to a House full of over 500 men, many opposed to her, she spoke about the Women’s Vote and the perils of drinking – and the danger it posed to women and children…. She emphasised the negative impact it had on the economy and called for the restrictions on drinking hours introduced in World War One to be tightened even further – something that did not sit well with many of her male counterparts…. Nancy Astor held her Conservative seat for over 25 years….

Nancy Witcher Langhorne, Viscountess Astor CH, MP (1879-1964) by John Singer Sargent, RA (Florence 1856 - London 1925)
Portrait of Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent, 1909 – Public domain

On this day in history….23rd February 1892

On this day in history : 23rd February 1892 – The birth of character actress Kathleen Harrison – known for her Cockney characters but best remembered for her role as Mrs Huggett….

Kathleen Harrison – Fair use

Kathleen was born in the Lancashire town of Blackburn – she studied at RADA during 1914-15…. She then spent some time in Argentina and Madeira after marrying John Henry Beck in 1916…. The couple had three children, two sons and a daughter….

Returning to England in the 1920s Kathleen made her stage debut as Mrs Judd in ‘The Constant Flint’ at Eastbourne’s Pier Theatre in 1926…. She had already made her film debut in 1915, with a part in ‘Our Boys’…. In 1927 she appeared in London’s West End for the first time, as Winnie in ‘The Cage’ at the Savoy Theatre…. She was to appear in several other West End plays….

In 1931 her film career started in earnest with a part in ‘Hobson’s Choice’…. She was to go on to appear in some fifty films up to the mid 1970s, including ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’, ‘The Ghost Train’, ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Scrooge’…. She appeared on the small screen in the BBC production of Dickens’s ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ and ‘Our Mutual Friend’….

But it was the Huggetts trilogy of films that she was best known for….where she appeared opposite Jack Warner and Petula Clark…. The Huggett family were first introduced in the 1942 film ‘Holiday Camp’…. Kathleen played East End chairwoman Ethel Huggett, with Jack Warner as her onscreen husband, Joe and Hazel Court as their daughter, Joan – and whom had a baby…. The family also consisted of their son, Harry, played by Peter Hammond and Jimmy Hanley as Jimmy, Joan’s boyfriend….

Fair use

The film centred around a working class London family’s first visit to a holiday camp – and was the sixth most popular film at the British Box Office in 1947….and so leading to the trilogy of Huggett films…. The first, ‘Here Come the Huggetts’ in 1948 replaced the family children with three daughters, Jane (Jane Hylton), Susan (Susan Shaw) and Pet (Petula Clark)…. The film revolved around the chaos caused by the arrival of Ethel’s niece and the upcoming wedding of the now engaged Joan and Jimmy….

Fair use

The second film, ‘Vote for Huggett’ saw Joe stand for election – and then the third, ‘The Huggetts Abroad’, where the family emigrate to South Africa and get involved in diamond smuggling…. Both of the latter films were released in 1949; a fourth film, ‘Christmas with the Huggetts’, was in the pipeline but never happened…. A radio series, ‘Meet the Huggetts’, ran between 1953 and 1962 and was a big hit with listeners, even if it was disliked by the critics….

Kathleen also starred opposite Jack Warner in the 1956 film ‘Home and Away’ – about a working class family who win the football pools….

Kathleen always claimed to be six years younger than what she really was….but she came clean in 1992 and received a telegram from the Queen for her 100th birthday…. She died in 1995 at the age of 103….