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  • Napoleon in Wales November 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Napoleon in Wales

    Beach recently offered up the gem of a story that Göring, of all people, had hidden out in a British bomb shelter in the second world war. At that moment he alluded to the fact that in a previous period the British had been convinced that Napoleon himself had visited Britain on the eve of his […]

    Witch Murder Terror at Soham (and Horseshoes) November 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Murder Terror at Soham (and Horseshoes)

    A story from the depths of East Anglia (1843), one of the more isolated parts of the English countryside in the 19 Century. A rather amusing and novel occurrence was related to us the other day. A young man, the son of Mr. Elsden, a respectable tradesman of Soham, was walking from that place to […]

    Napoleon III Survives Death November 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Napoleon III Survives Death

    Beach was so moved to discover that Marshal Ney  had not really been killed in 1815 that he went out looking for other unlikely survivors. This is one he dredged up from, of all places, Leeds Times (19 Apr 1873), 8. Napoleon III it will be remembered had come to Britain in 1871 after being […]

    Queen Victoria, Dead Again November 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Queen Victoria, Dead Again

    Queen Victoria, like Shakespeare’s cowards, died many time before her death in 1901. Beach has, in his career as a nineteenth-century voyeur, often stumbled over references to one or other corner of the Empire convincing itself that Victoria had died before time. You can well imagine how it happened. A misunderstanding in a tiny village, […]

    Dumb Duels #3: Cannon Duel November 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dumb Duels #3: Cannon Duel

    Beach recently revived one of his favourite tags, the duel and the dumb duel. Here is a doubtful sounding example reported in a British newspaper in 1890. The date of the duel itself should be about 1875, which means that an argument between provincial army officers had a lot of time to be exaggerated into […]

    19C London Fairies and Murder November 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    19C London Fairies and Murder

    Beach has long considered himself duty bound to investigate all references to fairies, however strange and however obscene, and there have been, for a while, two references to London fairies that have irritated him because he can’t track them down: or at least he can follow them only into unattractive cul-de-sacs. First, from Carol Silver’s […]

    Advice on Good Government November 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Advice on Good Government

    William Paget (1506-1563) was a quintessential Tudor politician. He worked for Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I: in short, he survived. He, also, like many of the best Tudor politicians, owed his office to his ability rather than his blood, which was not very blue. He had his share of peccadilloes, of course, but […]

    The Origins of Canard November 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Origins of Canard

    Busy day here so Beach will just offer this short piece about the origin of the word ‘canard’. If true this is really a late eighteenth-century urban legend; if false it is a canard about a canard. First the basics, canard, the French for duck, came to mean any false story in nineteenth-century English. But […]

    Marshal Ney Survives Death November 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Marshal Ney Survives Death

    Marshal Ney was Napoleon’s greatest general and even those who, like Beachcombing, loathe old Boney, feel some regret when they read of how Ney was executed 7 Dec 1815. The great man stood in front of the firing squad and himself gave the order to fire after telling his soldiers: ‘I have fought a hundred battles […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: the Wrong Pocket November 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: the Wrong Pocket

      This wrong pocket story sounds like an urban legend though there are a worrying number of exact facts. Beach is going to try and turn up the story elsewhere and see if it is repeated. Any help? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com During the running at the Cartmel (North Lancashire) Steeplechases Meeting on Whit-Monday, Mr. Ratcliffe. […]

    In Search of Crimean Gothic November 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    In Search of Crimean Gothic

    Crimea is the Ukrainian or Russian peninsula that stretches down into the Black Sea and whose large bays make it resemble a famished fish about to eat a smaller prey. Crimea’s geography has made it a natural place for enclaves. In ancient times, the Greeks and Romans held colonies here, as did the Byzantines and Genoese in […]

    Gonzalo Guerrero: the Spanish Mayan November 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Gonzalo Guerrero: the Spanish Mayan

    Gonzalo Guerrero was an obscure Spaniard who played several interesting roles in his life. He was, in chronological order: a poor Andalusian; a servant of the Spanish crown; a Mayan sacrificial victim; an escapee; a Mayan slave; a Mayan war leader; a Mayan father and husband; and, finally, (if we can believe the stories) food […]

    Index Biography #35: Prize a book October 31, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Index Biography #35: Prize a book

    ***Leif gets it, scroll down for the answer*** The Index Biography is a new form of biography pioneered by this blog and introduced in a previous post. The creator must find a biography of a famous individual from history, they must turn to the index and write down eight peripheral facts about the individual’s life. We […]

    Immortals: Memories of the Revolutionary War in the Late Nineteenth Century October 30, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortals: Memories of the Revolutionary War in the Late Nineteenth Century

    Another immortal, this time from the Grantham Journal 20 Sep 1873. Note that vagueness about Afro-Americans’ ages was often pronounced in the late nineteenth century. Several of the ‘oldest American’ stories are about ex-slaves in the south. According to the Louisville Journal, a wonderful old negro is at present living at the farm of Dr. […]

    Skinny White: the Cleverest Pickpocket in Europe October 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Skinny White: the Cleverest Pickpocket in Europe

    Beach continues to enjoy pickpocket stories. This one was told of James White (skinny White) a pickpocket, who died in 1895 and who was ‘the cleverest pickpocket in Europe’. His obituary is willfully quiet about some of his exploits. It for example, tells us nothing of the ‘curious tales’ about his fun at Monte Carlo. […]

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