Occupied by the Ottoman Empire, the French and the British, Cairo has retained its Arabic culture and is sometimes called ‘The City of a Thousand Minarets’ because of its overwhelming Muslim architecture. In 2011, Tahrir Square in Cairo was the central point of the Egyptian Revolution.
In 1840, when Catherine would have arrived in Cairo, Egypt was ruled by Muhammad Ali Pasha, an Ottoman commander, who is credited with creating modern Egypt. The French had occupied Cairo at the end of the 19th century, under Napoleon, but had withdrawn in 1801. Pasha’s social, economic and cultural reforms had a modernizing effect on both city and country, and further developments such as electric lighting, gas, a theatre and an opera house, were made throughout the late nineteenth century before the British invasion of 1882.
Calais is a town on the north-west coast of France, a major port and the closest town to England, to which it is linked by the Dover-Calais ferry service (the two towns are only 21 miles apart). Uncertain as to when exactly it was founded, Calais definitely existed in Roman times and was used to launch attacks on Britain. Between 1347 and 1558 it in fact belonged to Britain and became known as ‘the brightest jewel in the English crown’ as the port through which the important tin, lead, cloth and wool trades passed. Recaptured by the French in 1558, Calais has also served as an important military base as well as commercial port – on the front line in the Napoleonic Wars, World War I and World War II. During World War II much of the town was flattened by German bombing raids, but the historical Old Town has been rebuilt and some original buildings survive, including the Église Notre-Dame, Hôtel de Ville and old British defensive forts. Once a major centre of wool and cloth production, Calais still contains two large lace factories but its economy is mostly directed through the port: more than 10 million people pass through the town every year.
A ‘packet’ is a small boat used in the 18th and 19th centuries which was originally used for post but then later on also for freight and passenger transportation over short distances. The services ran fairly regularly: the forerunner of today’s passenger ferry services.
Paris is the capital city of France and one of the world’s leading cities. Situated on the River Seine, Paris has a population of around 2,211,297 and between the 16th and 19th centuries was the largest city in the world. Famed for its cultural influences, particularly on art, literature and fashion, Paris is one of the most expensive and the most visited city in the world and contains some of the most famous buildings including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Gallery and Notre Dame Cathedral – to name just three of its 38,000 historical monuments.
More on Paris, including tourist information, can be found here.
‘The New World’ refers to the Americas and sometimes Australasia; a term dating from the 16th century when European explorers like Columbus first discovered the continents in the Western hemisphere. The name is now no longer used except in a historical context, as it has unpleasant overtones of colonialism. However, in 1840 when the British Empire was powerful, using the term ‘New World’ would not have been regarded as patronising.
The largest rivers of the Americas are the
Amazon – flowing over 4,000 miles through Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia; the world’s second longest and largest river in terms of water flowing (180,000m³/second);
Parana – Uruguay, approximately 2,795 miles long;
Mississippi – USA, approximately 3,870 miles long;
and Rio-Grande – USA, approximately 1,885 miles long.
Stockholm is the capital city of Sweden and the largest city in the country as well as in Scandinavia. Originally founded in the early 13th century, what is currently the Old Town (Gamla Stan) was built on an island next to the Helgeandsholmen islet on the south-east coast of Sweden as a defence. Its location meant that it quickly became important in terms of trade and maritime defence, and as the Swedish Empire grew in power so did Stockholm. The city now comprises urban areas on fourteen islands around the central Old Town and is an important economic, political and cultural centre. Technologically advanced and efficient, Stockholm has a reputation for being a ‘modern city’ due to the rapid expansion which took place in the late 20th century and saw the construction of many modernist buildings. However, the city contains many important historical buildings and palaces, especially in the Old Town, including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Royal Palace Drottningholm and the Skogskyrkogården (Woodland Cemetery). Stockholm was Europe’s first ‘green city’ and remains Sweden’s financial capital. It is also famous for its beautiful parks, open spaces and waterways and sometimes referred to as ‘The Venice of the North’.
The Princess Royal is a title given by the British monarch to his or her eldest daughter. It is a title held for life, so there can only ever be one Princess Royal at a time. Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria introduced the custom in 1642 for their daughter Mary, taking inspiration from the equivalent French title ‘Madame Royale’. There have been seven Princess Royals in total; the current is Princess Anne.
The Princess Royal referred to here is Queen Victoria’s oldest child, Princess Victoria. Born in 1840, she officially became Princess Royal in 1841. Intelligent and well-educated, she grew up in Buckingham Palace and met her future husband, Prince Frederick William of Prussia, in 1851. There was an age difference of ten years between them, and they became engaged in 1855 when Victoria was just fourteen. Married in London in 1857, the match was of great diplomatic importance in tying Britain to Germany and both held relatively liberal views. However, their son, who would become Kaiser Wilhelm II, held different political opinions to his parents and would eventually come to favour autocratic rule – the ties established between Britain and Germany were abruptly severed with the outbreak of World War I.
Victoria remained close to her mother throughout her life: around 8,000 letters between them have been catalogued. Her husband died just 99 days after succeeding the throne of Prussia in 1888, and the widowed Kaiserin lived out the rest of her life in Castle Friedrichshof (now a hotel), occupying herself with patronising the arts and education. She died of breast cancer in Germany in 1901.
Portrayed since her death as a supporting character in various films, a German biopic (‘Vicky’ – The Lost Empress) dedicated to her life is currently in pre-production.
When Victoria became Queen in 1837, Lord Melbourne was the leader of the Whig party. A childless widower, he treated the young Victoria like a daughter, giving her political advice and attempting to protect her from the realities of life for the British public which, in London, were often harsh. Their close relationship led to great suspicion from many – Lord Melbourne had an apartment at Windsor Castle and often used to spend six hours a day with the young queen.
In 1839, the Whigs were defeated by Peel’s Tory party. According to tradition, the Queen should have replaced her Ladies of the Bedchamber so that they were of the same political alliance as the government. However, Victoria refused and Peel resigned from office, to be replaced again by Melbourne.
The situation was diffused somewhat in early 1840 when Victoria married Prince Albert and he began to influence her political decisions. Not tied to any one party, he began to interest her in the social conditions in Britain – child labour, city slums etc. Lord Melbourne no longer held such sway over the Queen and when he resigned in 1841, Victoria was able to form a good relationship with Peel. Despite this, Victoria’s ill-concealed favouritism and tendency to be easily influenced brought her a lot of criticism in the popular press for the first years of her reign.
Read more about Queen Victoria and her Prime Ministers.
history of the British weather. However, it was not as cold as the winter of 1837-8, accepted as the coldest winter of the nineteenth century, in which London temperatures plummeted to -16°C.
Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) was a Tory politician and Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1834 to 1835, then again from 1841 to 1846. He entered politics at the age of 21 in 1809 and was well-regarded, although served minor roles in the Tory government such as Undersecretary for War and Chief Secretary of Ireland. In 1822 he entered the Cabinet as Home Secretary – whilst in this post, he established the Metropolitan Police Force of London in 1829, the first modern police force. Policemen have since been referred to as ‘bobbies’ (England) or ‘Peelers’ (Ireland) and Peel is regarded as the father of modern policing, having laid out the requirements necessary for an effective and successful force.
Peel’s First Ministry was a minority government and lasted only 100 days, due to the Whig collaboration with the Irish Radicals to defeat all the Tory bills. Peel resigned to Lord Melbourne and was given his next chance at government in 1839. However, Queen Victoria refused to change her ladies-in-waiting to Tory women, as per tradition, and fearing the favouritism she showed towards Lord Melbourne, Peel refused to form a government. His second ministry eventually began in 1841. Some of the most famous acts of parliament passed during this time were the Factory Act 1844 and the Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, which allowed free trade of grain between Britain and Ireland. Passed with Whig and Radical support but opposed by his own party, Peel resigned after passing the bill. He remained active in politics, with a core of Peelite supporters, until his death due to a riding accident in 1850.
The Home Office is the department of the United Kingdom’s government which is responsible principally for immigration, security and order. First formed in 1782, the original department was originally concerned with all domestic matters, whilst the Foreign Office dealt with international issues. However, since then various specific departments such as the Ministry of Justice have been formed by splitting various responsibilities away from the Home Office. Today its main areas of control are the police, borders agency and MI5 (Security Service) and it aims to reduce crime, ensure people feel safe in their homes, protect the UK from terrorist activities, manage offenders, control immigration and secure the country’s borders. The current Home Secretary (2012) is Theresa May.
Tyburn was a medieval village which stood at the end of what is now Oxford Street, near Marble Arch. Its name comes from the Tyburn, a tributary of the River Thames, which is now completely covered over. The spring there supplied the first piped water supply to London in 1236. Tyburn is notorious as the location of the London gallows, also known as the ‘Tyburn Tree’ between 1196 and 1783, after which time the executions were carried out at Newgate Prison. Prisoners were traditionally marched to their deaths, from Newgate Prison down the length of Oxford Street; the executions were very popular public spectacles and drew huge crowds – apprentices were given the day off and a public holiday atmosphere ensued, with the convicts expected to dress up and provide a ‘good dying’ to be cheered by the crowds. On one occasion the spectator stands collapsed, killing and injuring hundreds, but not even that proved a deterrent. The gallows are now commemorated with a plaque at the junction of Edgware Road and Bayswater Road. Tyburn is today the point at which Edgware Road begins. It is also marked by Tyburn Convent, in memory of the many Christian martyrs who met their deaths there.
Guadeloupe is one of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. Discovered and named by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on his second trip to the Americas, it was annexed by the French in 1635 and spent the next two centuries seesawing between French, British and (briefly) Swedish ownership, before being ceded finally to the French in 1815. Columbus discovered the pineapple on Guadeloupe, although it was also grown elsewhere in the Caribbean, but for years the island’s main export was sugar cane, grown on the plantations of wealthy French settlers. Slavery was abolished in 1848 on initiation of the French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher.
Today Guadeloupe has a population of 400,000 and remains part of France and therefore the European Union. Its main industries are tourism and agriculture: sugar cane is still farmed, but bananas now account for around 50% of exports. Culturally, music and dance in Guadeloupe is very popular, and the island’s most famous literary export is the 1960 Nobel Prize-winning poet Saint-John Perse.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet and playwright and arguably the greatest writer of the English language. His works include 37 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems and other works of poetry, which have been translated into every language and are performed more than the works of any other playwright, living or dead. Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, he established a career in London in 1585, working as a writer and actor, and part-owning a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Most of his works were produced between 1589 and 1613: his first plays were comedies and histories, followed by tragedies and tragicomedies. Whilst well-regarded, he did not achieve as much fame in his lifetime as he is honoured with now. Shakespeare’s style and use of language have given rise to him being known as the father of modern English: his spelling, grammar and use of words have had more impact on the English language than any other single person. Despite his legacy, very little was known about William Shakespeare’s private life, and some people have questioned whether in fact all the plays attributed to him were indeed his work. Conspiracy theories aside, it cannot be debated that the works of Shakespeare are performed, studied and used as inspiration more than any others in the world. Amongst Shakespeare’s most well-known plays are Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet, but a full list can be found here.
abolitionists were those involved in the movement to end slavery in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Despite Spain having abolished colonial slavery in 1542, it had changed it laws again and throughout Europe, North America and the colonies slavery was widespread. Although in Britain servitude was abolished in the 17th century, slaves were imported from Africa, India and Asia (ostensibly as ‘personal servants) to England and her colonies. The Quakers were instrumental in founding the anti-slavery movement and in 1787 William Wilberforce established the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Other important abolitionists in Britain included Thomas Clarkson and Josiah Wedgwood, but there were many more on home soil and abroad. Together they campaigned for the end of slavery and purchased an area of land in South Africa which they named ‘Freetown’ and sent liberated slaves to – it is now the capital of Sierra Leone. The Slave Trade Act was passed in 1807, making the trade illegal throughout the British Empire, although that did not stop slaves from being owned. The Slavery Abolition Act was finally passed in 1833 and Trinidad became the first British colony to achieve total emancipation. Even after the act was passed, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (now Anti-Slavery International) continued to campaign for the end of slavery worldwide, making it the oldest international humanitarian organisation.
Other countries passed emancipation acts at different periods, for example France in 1848 and America in 1865. Adult and child slavery or forced labour is illegal in most countries today and against international humanitarian laws.
The alkali metals are a group of chemical elements with similar properties: shiny, silvery metals which are soft and highly reactive. Lithium (Li), sodium (Na), potassium (K), rubidium (Rb), caesium (Cs) and francium (Fr) all react violently when introduced to water, producing large amounts of hydrogen gas – lithium has the weakest and francium the strongest reaction. A favourite illustrative experiment of chemistry teachers, only the first three (lithium, sodium and potassium) can be safely demonstrated and even then only using very small amounts; the other elements cause extremely violent and dangerous explosions when introduced to water. The video below shows a small square of potassium introduced to water.
Columbus set off around the world and cartographers were able to produce detailed navigation charts, globes and the first whole world map. Before the arrival of aerial photography in the twentieth century and the satellite technology used today, however, map-making was a complicated process involving overland travel and despite the skill of cartographers many errors were made in maps.
Styles have also varied throughout the ages – in the medieval ages and up until the 17th century maps were very decorative, but by the 19th century all unnecessary ornamental features were discarded. The arrival of railway travel meant that maps could be produced quicker and in more detail, and steel engraving was used as an efficient method of mass-production. Some of the most well-known British cartographers of the period were John Tallis and Company, Robert Moresby, George Bradshaw and Matthew Flinders.
A couple of map-making histories can be found here:
Brazil, a country in South America, contains 60% of the Amazon rainforest, the largest rainforest in the world. Covering the basin of the Amazon River, the rainforest comprises 1.4 billion acres which are home to the largest and most diverse collection of plants and animals in the world. 2.5 million insect species, 40,000 plant species, 2,200 fishes, 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians and 378 reptiles have been scientifically classified, with more discovered continuously. The rainforest is tropical, meaning it has a warm and wet climate with temperatures higher than 18ºC (64ºF) year-round and rainfall of around 175-200cm per year. The Amazon is suffering from deforestation, which is occurring because of the development of the land for human settlement and cutting down of the trees for wood. Conservation groups are increasingly concerned with protecting the Amazon, which comprises more than half of the world’s rainforest and has unparalleled biodiversity as well as helping absorb carbon dioxide from the air which helps with the fighting of global warming.