Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Random interesting facts & stories about the British Royal history
Appendicitis delays the Coronation
King Edward VII’s coronation was scheduled for 26 June 1902. But just two days before the 26th he was diagnosed with appendicitis, & needed urgent surgery, that was carried out by Frederick Treves, & assisted by Lord Lister.
Treves decided not to remove the abscess, which was perityphlitis, & inflammation around the appendix which needed draining. With the support of the leading surgical authority, Lister, he performed a then-radical operation of draining the infected appendiceal abscess through a small incision & leaving the appendix intact. Appendicitis was generally not treated operatively at this time & carried a high mortality rate, though developments in anesthesia & antisepsis in the preceding 50 years made life-saving surgery possible.
The operation was carried out on a table in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace. The King initially rejected surgery because of the forthcoming coronation, but Treves insisted, stating that 'if he was not authorised to operate, there would instead be a funeral'. The surgery was carried out & the next day, the king was sitting up in bed, smoking a cigar. Two weeks later, it was announced that he was out of danger. Treves was honoured with a baronetcy (which the King had arranged before the operation) & appendix surgery entered the medical mainstream in the UK. Edward was finally crowned at Westminster Abbey on 9 August.
Frederick Treves was a prominent British surgeon, & a specialist in anatomy. He's generally known for his friendship with Joseph Merrick, often called the "Elephant Man" for his severe deformities. In March 1900, Treves was appointed one of the Surgeons Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, & after her death the following year, he was appointed as an Honorary Serjeants Surgeon to her successor King Edward VII. In 1901 he was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO). He also published a book about his experiences of the king's illnesses, soon after the coronation. Treves continued to serve the royal family as Serjeant Surgeon to the King & to the Royal Household from July 1902 until 1910.
Viking Warlord - Sweyn Forkbeard
Sweyn Forkbeard was a bloodthirsty Viking warlord, King of Denmark from 988, taking over from his father Harald Bluetooth. He spent a large part of his life invading England (1002–1005, 1006–1007, & 1009–1012), & exploiting the weaknesses of the English King Æthelred the Unready. In 1013 he led his forces in a full-scale invasion of England, landing at Gainsborough, where he laid waste to a wide area from Oxford & Winchester to London. Women & children were burned alive & impaled on lances, & men hung up to die suspended by their private parts.
The contemporary Peterborough Chronicle (part of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) states:
Before the month of August came king Sweyn with his fleet to Sandwich. He went very quickly about East Anglia into the Humber's mouth, & so upward along the Trent till he came to Gainsborough. Earl Uchtred & all Northumbria quickly bowed to him, as did all the people of the Kingdom of Lindsey, then the people of the Five Boroughs*. He was given hostages from each shire. When he understood that all the people had submitted to him, he bade that his force should be provisioned & horsed; he went south with the main part of the invasion force, while some of the invasion force, as well as the hostages, were with his son Cnut. After he came over Watling Street, they went to Oxford, & the town-dwellers soon bowed to him, & gave hostages. From there they went to Winchester, & the people did the same, then eastward to London.
The Londoners put up stiff resistance, because King Æthelred & Thorkell the Tall, a Viking leader who had defected to Æthelred, personally held their ground against him in London itself. Sweyn then went west to Bath, where the western thanes yielded to him & gave hostages. The Londoners then followed suit, fearing Sweyn's retribution if they resisted much longer. Æthelred sent his sons Edward (later Edward the Confessor) & Alfred to Normandy, & himself withdrew to the Isle of Wight, & then followed his sons into exile. On Christmas Day 1013 Sweyn was named King of England.
Forkbeards reign as King didn't last long though, as he died suddenly in February 1014, & was never crowned. His son Cnut succeeded him. Cnut & his sons, Harold Harefoot & Harthacnut, ruled England over a combined 26-year period (1016–1042). Following Harthacnut's death, the English throne reverted to the House of Wessex under Æthelred's younger son Edward the Confessor (reigned 1042–1066).
* The Five Boroughs or The Five Boroughs of the Danelaw were the five main towns of Danish Mercia (what is now the East Midlands). These were Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, Nottingham & Stamford. The first four later became county towns.
Did You Know?
Forkbeard's father Harald Bluetooth, so named because he had a prominent blue/black tooth, posthumously gave his name to the short-range wireless technology standard for transferring data that was developed in the 1990's. Scandinavian telecom companies Ericsson, Intel & Nokia were looking to create a universal standard. In a meeting in 1996 Jim Kardach of Intel proposed the name Bluetooth. Kardach had been reading a novel involving Harald Bluetooth, & explained that the king of Denmark was known for uniting Scandinavia just as they intended to unite PC & cellular industries with a single wireless standard. In fact the Bluetooth logo merges the Nordic runes H (Hagall, looks like an X) & B (berkanen) - the initials of Harald Bluetooth!
image: Anagoria / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)
Chancellor of the Exchequer
King Henry I, (reigned 1100-1135) was extremely thorough when it came to money. He left a real & lasting financial legacy. In 1106 he introduced the 'Exchequer' as a new way of government accounting & monitoring state income & expenditure. The Exchequer was a piece of cloth laid out on a table about 10 feet by 5 feet & counters were stacked up on the different squares & counted. Twice a year, on Lady Day & Michaelmas, his officials had to bring in their money & have it checked & counted. The UK still has the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The king's tight grip on finances also extended to money supply & in 1124, at the Assize of the Moneyers, 94 moneyers (coin minters) were found guilty of debasing the coinage & were castrated & right hands cut off!
George V - love & marriage
As a young man Prince George (later King George V) was destined to serve in the navy. In September 1877, aged 12 years old, he joined the cadet training ship HMS Britannia at Dartmouth, Devon with his elder brother Prince Albert Victor.
He served for many years under the command of his uncle, Queen Victoria's son Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, who was stationed in Malta with the Royal Navy.
During his time in Malta, he fell in love with his cousin, Princess Marie of Edinburgh, daughter of Prince Alfred. His grandmother, father & uncle all supported the match, but his mother & aunt the Princess of Wales & Maria Alexandrovna, Duchess of Edinburgh opposed it. The Princess of Wales thought the family was too pro-German, & the Duchess of Edinburgh disliked England. The Duchess, the only daughter of Alexander II of Russia, disliked the fact that, as the wife of a younger son of the British sovereign, she had to yield precedence to the Princess of Wales, whose father had been a minor German prince before being called unexpectedly to the throne of Denmark. Guided by her mother, Marie declined George's proposal.
Marie went on to marry Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Romania in 1893. He became King of Romania, in 1914. Therefore Marie became Queen of Romania .
In November 1891, George's elder brother, Prince Albert Victor, became engaged to his second cousin once removed Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, known as "May" within the family. Mary's parents were Prince Francis, Duke of Teck, & Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, a male-line granddaughter of King George III & a first cousin of Queen Victoria.
Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence & Avondale; Queen Mary when Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, © National Portrait Gallery, London 1891.
On 14 January 1892, six weeks after the formal engagement, Prince Albert Victor died of pneumonia. This left George second in line to the British throne, & likely to succeed after his father. George had only just recovered from a severe illness himself, after being confined to bed for six weeks with typhoid fever, the disease that was thought to have killed his grandfather Prince Albert. Queen Victoria still regarded Princess Mary as a suitable match for her grandson, & George & May grew close during their shared period of grieving.
A year after Albert Victor's death, George proposed to Mary. They married at the Chapel Royal in St James's Palace, London, on 6 July 1893.
Morale boosting visits
Throughout the Second World War, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth provided morale-boosting visits throughout the United Kingdom, visiting bomb sites, munitions factories, hospitals & troops. The King visited military forces overseas in France, December 1939, North Africa & Malta in June 1943, Normandy in June 1944, southern Italy in July 1944, & the Low Countries in October 1944. Their high public profile & active determination secured their place as symbols of national resistance. Some of these visits were filmed by Pathe News.
The King visits troops in France, 1939;
King & Queen visit Indian troops, 1940;
The king leads a National day of prayer, 1940;
King And Queen Visit A Bombed Hospital (1940);
The King Visits The French Army (1940)
King And Queen In Raided Areas (1940)
Malta Welcomes The King (1943)
King And Queen On 'king George V' (1944) - no sound
Visit Pathe News; https://www.britishpathe.com/
George I & Sophia Dorothea
The future King George I of Great Britain, then George Louis, Electoral Prince of Hanover was set up to marry Sophia Dorothea of Celle. On hearing who her future spouse would be, Sophia Dorothea shouted: "I will not marry the pig snout!" (a name by which he was known in Hanover in Germany), & threw against the wall a miniature of George Louis brought for her. Forced by her father, Sophia fainted into her mother's arms on her first meeting with her future mother-in-law. She fainted again when introduced to George Louis.
On 22 November 1682, in Celle, the 'un' happy couple married. In 1705 he would later inherit the Principality of Lüneburg after the death of his father-in-law & uncle, George William, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Then in 1714, the Kingdom of Great Britain & the Kingdom of Ireland & became King George I of Great Britain through his mother, Duchess Sophia, a granddaughter of James VI & I.
The marriage of George Louis & Sophia Dorothea was unsurprisingly, an unhappy one. His family, particularly his mother Duchess Sophia, despised Sophia Dorothea. The motive for the marriage was almost purely financial. Duchess Sophia wrote to her niece Elizabeth Charlotte, "One hundred thousand thalers a year is a goodly sum to pocket, without speaking of a pretty wife, who will find a match in my son George Louis, the most pig-headed, stubborn boy who ever lived, who has round his brains such a thick crust that I defy any man or woman ever to discover what is in them. He does not care much for the match itself, but one hundred thousand thalers a year have tempted him as they would have tempted anybody else"
Things seemed better after the birth of their first two children:
George Augustus, born in 1683, later King George II of Great Britain, & Sophia Dorothea, born in 1686, later the wife of King Frederick William I of Prussia, & mother of Frederick the Great.
When George Louis acquired a mistress, Melusine von der Schulenburg, he started neglecting his wife. His parents asked him to be more discreet with his mistress, fearful that a disruption in the marriage would interrupt the payment of the 100,000 thalers!
- A marriage of state is a diplomatic marriage or union between two members of different nation-states or internally, between two power blocs, usually in authoritarian societies & is a practice which dates back into pre-history, as far back as early Grecian cultures in western society, & of similar antiquity in other civilizations.