Animals History

The Tower of London Was Home to a Polar Bear

polar bear

The first record of wild animals at the Tower of London was in 1210 during the reign of King John. The monarch would receive the animals as gifts from other powerful rulers at the time, often to impress others or to show the wealth and strength of the ruler. The exotic animals were sent to London from all over the world and kept in the Tower of London as a symbol of power as well as for the curiosity and entertainment of the court.

King Henry III was particularly credited with establishing the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London. In 1235 he was given 3 lions as a wedding gift by the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick III, he was also presented with a polar bear from King Haakon of Norway in 1251, the bear was given a particularly long leash to enable him to swim and catch fish in the Thames river. One of the more unusual animals was a large male African Elephant which was presented to King Henry III from King Louis IX of France in 1255, being the first of its kind to reach the shores of Britain, this large and unusual creature was said to cause quite a stir and the people of London flocked to catch a glimpse of the giant grey beast.

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Animals History

The Canary Islands Were Not Named After Birds

Canary (Serinus canaria)

The Spanish name Islas Canarias (Canary Islands) is derived from the Latin Canariae Insulae which translates to “Isle of Dogs”. The Romans sent an expedition to the islands in 40 BC under the command of King Juba II of Mauritania in Western Africa and upon arriving at the first island (which is now known as Gran Canaria) they discovered the land to be overrun by packs of large wild dogs. These dogs were presented to King Juba and he decided to name the islands “The Islands of Dogs”, a name which has been kept to this day.

Canaries, the small, yellow birds are actually named after the islands as they were indigenous to the region and not the other way around. They were eventually brought to the rest of the world by the Spanish in the 17th Century. The Canary Islands national flag still features Dogs that the islands were named after.

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History Misc Musings

When the Queen Goes to Parliament she Holds an MP Hostage

The official opening of Parliament in the UK is a ceremony held to mark the formal start of the parliamentary year, it is steeped in ancient traditions with one of the strangest being that the Queen holds an MP hostage in Buckingham Palace to ensure her safe return. This still goes on today with the hostage for 2014 being Vice Chamberlain Desmond Swayne.

This tradition dates back to the 17th century and the English Civil War where the monarch, King Charles I, and Parliament were on less friendly terms. Due to the hostility between the parties, King Charles was very distrustful of parliament and was so concerned for his life when entering that he decided to take a hostage to ensure his survival. He was right to be concerned, as he was eventually executed by parliament in 1649. However, nowadays the procedure is purely ceremonial though the hostage of the crown does remain under armed guard.

Another interesting tradition that takes place when the Queen opens parliament is that the cellars of the Palace of Westminster are searched by her Yeomen of the Guard in order to prevent a modern-day gunpowder plot such as was orchestrated by Guy Fawkes in 1605 where English Catholics attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill the Protestant King James I and aristocracy. The cellars

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