On this day in history….31st March 1855

On this day in history : 31st March 1855 – English novelist Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre, dies during her pregnancy – three weeks before her 39th birthday….

Charlotte Bronte – George Richmond Public domain

Charlotte, the daughter of an Irish-Anglican priest, had received an unexpected marriage proposal from her father’s curate, Arthur Bell Nichols…. Arthur had loved her from a far for a long time….but Charlotte’s father thought it an unsuitable match, partly due to Arthur’s financial status – and so Charlotte declined the proposal….

However, her good friend, fellow writer Elizabeth Gaskell (who was later to become Charlotte’s biographer) urged her to reconsider….pointing out the advantages of being married….

Charlotte found herself becoming more and more attracted to Arthur – and in January 1854 she agreed to become his wife…. It took until April to finally get her father’s begrudging approval but once he had reluctantly agreed plans were made and the couple married in June. Charlotte’s father had been due to give his daughter away – but at the last minute decided he was unable to do it, leaving Charlotte to walk down the aisle alone….

She became pregnant soon after the wedding – but her health was quickly to decline…. Elizabeth Gaskell described the symptoms of her illness as “sensations of perpetual nausea and ever-recurring faintness”…. Charlotte became weaker and weaker and eventually she and her unborn child passed away….

Portrait by J.H. Thompson at the Bronte Parsonage Museum – Public domain

The cause of death stated upon her death certificate is that of tuberculosis…. However, there are several other possibilities as to the illness that claimed her life…. Typhoid is one such possibility – servant to the Brontë family, Tabitha Ackroyd, had died from the disease a few weeks before – so this could have been very likely…. Another thought is that Charlotte may have contracted pneumonia after getting soaked on a moorland walk – at the time pneumonia was almost impossible to recover from…. ‘Jail Fever’ – or Epidemic Typhus – has been another suggestion put forward; a bacterial infection very common in those more unsanitary times and passed to humans by fleas or lice…. Or it could have been an infection from contaminated water….

But one of the possible causes most favoured by the experts is that she died from dehydration and malnutrition brought on by Hyperemesis Gravidarum – or chronic morning sickness….

Charlotte is buried in the family vault in the church of St. Michael and All Angels in Haworth, West Yorkshire….

On this day in history….16th March 1872

On this day in history : 16th March 1872 – The first ever English FA Cup Final takes place between the Wanderers Football Club and the Royal Engineers at the Kennington Oval…..

The Royal Engineers pictured in 1872 – Public domain. Back : Merriman, Ord, Marindin, Addison, Mitchell – Front : Hoskyns, Renny-Tailyour, Creswell, Goodwyn, Barker, Rich.

Before 1871 there had been no regular competitive league games…. Secretary of the Football Association, Charles Alcock, drew up the plans for a league and 15 teams entered the first round in November 1871…. In the beginning it was based very much around the ‘old boys’ public schoolboy network….

Wanderers had formed in 1859 as Forest Football Club….consisting mainly of Harrow schoolboys…. They became known as the Wanderers as they had no fixed ground of their own – but by 1869 they had become based at the Kennington Oval…. Charles Alcock, who had played for Wanderers, was also Secretary of Surrey Cricket Club….

Many football clubs played on cricket grounds at this time…. Often football teams emerged from the cricket teams themselves – as the game was used as a way of keeping fitness up during the winter months…. It wasn’t until the late 1880s and into the 90s that purpose-built football grounds began to appear….

An estimated crowd of 2,000 paid a shilling at the door to watch 22 amateurs play on a cricket pitch, with no nets at the goals, in the first FA Cup Final….

The oldest surviving cup trophy 1896-1910. Photo credit: Oldelpaso via Wikipedia. Public domain

Wanderers had only won one match in the qualifying fixtures….they had drawn with Queen’s Park, a Scottish team, in the semi-finals…. This meant a re-match – but the Scots did not have enough money to return to London and so had to withdraw from the competition…. Under the rules at the time, this meant Wanderers automatically gained a place in the final…. The Royal Engineers – who were founded in 1863 by Major Francis Marindin – secured their place with a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace in a replay….

The match was won by Wanderers, who beat the Royal Engineers 1-0…. The winning goal was scored 15 minutes into the game by Morton Betts, playing under the pseudonym ‘A.H. Chequer’ – as he had attended Harrow and played for Harrow Chequers…. His goal was a simple ‘tap in’ after the ball had been successfully dribbled through the Royal Engineers’ defence….

Morton Betts – Public domain

The FA Cup remains the oldest football competition in the World….