As the world, and more particularly the United Kingdom, is eagerly awaiting the birth of Prince William and Princess Catherine’s second child, we thought it topical to clarify the delicate matter of the order of succession to the British throne.

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In the United Kingdom, succession is governed by the Act of   Union of 1800, which reinstated the Act of Settlement of 1701  and the Bill of Rights of 1689.

 

These stated that Protestant heirs of Princess Sophia, grand    daughter of King James Ist only may become monarchs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Catholics, individuals who marry a Catholic or individuals born out of wedlock cannot remain in the line of succession.

In practice, the crown was passed from the monarch to the eldest son. If a monarch had sons, they took precedence over the daughters.  In the case of Elisabeth II, King George VI had no sons and the crown was handed down to his eldest daughter. In turn, the crown will be handed down to her eldest son, Prince Charles of Wales.  This meant that even though, the Princess Royal, Princess Ann, is older than her brothers Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, they come before her in the line of succession.

However, a law passed on March 26th 2015 has removed the male bias from the succession rules, which means that the future Princess of Cambridge will not lose her place in the line of succession even if she were to have one or more younger brothers.

The current line of succession is the following.

  1. Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
  2. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
  3. Prince George of Cambridge
  4. Princess (?) of Cambridge
  5. Prince Henry of Wales
  6. Prince Andrew, Duke of York
  7. Princess Beatrice of York
  8. Princess Eugenie of York
  9. Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
  10. James Mountbatten-Windsor, Viscount Severn
  11. Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor
  12. Princess Ann, the Princess Royal

Incidentally, thanks to the new law, both Prince George and his little sister will also be able to marry Catholics without losing their place in the line of succession.

 

 

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While in England, the month of May brings up images of May poles and Morris dancers, for people in France, lily of the valley is what springs to mind.

Do you know where this tradition comes from?Lilyweb

The tradition is rumoured to have started when King Charles IX was offered a lily of the valley as a token of luck and prosperity for the coming year on the 1st of May 1561.  The king rather liked the idea and decided to present the ladies of the court with a lily of the valley each year on the 1st of May.

From around 1900, it became traditional in France for men to present a bouquet of lily-of-the-valley flowers to their sweethearts to express their love and affection.

At the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom to give a sprig of lily of the valley, to family and friends on the 1st of May.

On that day, the government permits individuals and workers’ organisations to sell them tax-free.

 

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When you are looking for interesting historical facts, the TV show Horrible Histories is a good place to start.

Since this year marks the 70th anniversary of the 1945 armistice, we thought  a little recap of the war events was called for.

Bob Hale’s WWII report

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The 8th of May, also known as VE Day, is a public holiday held to mark the end of World War II in Europe, and the Allied forces formal acceptance of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany and its armed forces.speeches_churchill

As Adolf Hitler had commited suicide on April 30th, his successor Karl Dönitz decided to surrender and travelled to Reims to sign the act of military surrender on the 7th of May.

In the United Kingdom, where the cost of war had been high with half a million homes destroyed, thousands of civilians killed and millions of lives disrupted, people went in the street to party and rejoice when they heard on the wireless at 3pm that Germany had surrendered.

On the 8th of May, huge crowds gathered in London in Trafalgar square and up the Mall all the way to Buckingham Palace to see King George VI, Queen Elisabeth and Prime Minister Winston Churchill appear on the balcony palace. The king and his wife appeared 8 times in all on the balcony to the cheers of the crowd.

The two princesses, Elisabeth and Margaret were allowed to leave the palace incognito and take part in the street celebrations.

2015 marks the 70th anniversary of Germany’s surrender and 3 days of festivities are planned across Britain.

A national two-minute silence will be held at the Cenotaph at 3pm on 8 May, marking the moment prime minister Winston Churchill broadcast his historic speech to formally announce the end of the war, before the lighting of more than 100 beacons, stretching across the country from Newcastle to Cornwall.

On the 9th of May, cathedrals across the country will ring bells at 11am in celebration. In London, stars will perform at a 1940s-themed concert held on Horse Guards Parade in the evening.

On the 10th of May, there will be a service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey attended by veterans and their families, members of the royal family, politicians, members of the Armed Forces and representatives of Allied nations and Commonwealth countries that fought alongside Britain.

 

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  • Tie in new shoots of blackberries and cane fruits to support wires
  • Sow sweetcornin deep pots, raising strong young plants to transplant into the garden in June
  • Pinch off strawberry runners as soon as they develop, to stop them competing with developing fruit for nutrients
  • Earth up soil around emerging potato shoots, which encourages higher yields
  • Sow seedsof the following crops outside this week: radish, spring onions, coriander, parsley and chives.
  • Runner beans make one of the easiest and most rewarding summer crops. Planted now they’ll romp away in the warm soil and, with plenty of moisture at the roots, they’ll quickly twine up their support to produce masses of succulent pods that taste much better than any out-of-season beans in a supermarket.

For more gardening tips, check http://www.gardenersworld.com/what-to-do-now/

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SAM_2793

As May is a month of bank holidays, why not hop across the Channel to enjoy a lovely getaway week-end in London?

Away from the beaten tracks, we take you down secret alleys  and well-kept locations to discover a London you know nothing  about.

 

From a medicine garden in Chelsea to coffee in a former public loo in central London, from the open ponds of Hampstead Heath to a “Bullshit tour of London”, discover a side of the city you never imagined by reading the following article for 101 unusual and unique things to do in London, curtesy of TimeOut .

http://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/101-things-to-do-in-london-unusual-and-unique

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Eton mess is a classic British dessert and a must for any strawberry lover. It is named after Eton college where it is served every 4th of June at the college’s annual cricket game against Harrow school.

As a bonus, it is extremely simple to make and takes very little time or preparation.

One word of advice though: only use fresh strawberries. The frozen or tinned kind just don’t work.

There are many variations of this recipe. Any summer fruit can be used to replace strawberries. Greek yoghurt can be substituted to cream for a lighter version. Vanilla can be also added as an extra twist on flavour.

NicelySeasoned_Eton_Mess

INGREDIENTS

  • 300 ml whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp caster or fine sugar
  • 100g ready-made meringue
  • 450g fresh strawberries
  • 1 tbsp icing or confectioners sugar

RECIPE

  1. Place the whipping cream in a large mixing bowl
  2. Add the sugar and whip with an electric whisk until the cream is light and fluffy. Be careful,  the cream must be softly whipped..
  3. Break the meringue into large bite-size chucks and gently stir into the cream. Don’t hesitate to add meringue crumbs into the cream too.
  4. Place half of the strawberries into another large mixing bowl and press gently with the back of a fork to break up the strawberries slightly and release some of the juice. Be careful not to puree the fruits.
  5. Stir the strawberries gently into the cream.
  6. Halve, then quarter the remaining strawberries.
  7. Place the cream mixture into a bowl or glass
  8. Top with the strawberry pieces
  9. Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. Sprinkle with sugar before serving.

Make sure you eat this dessert on the day it is made. The meringues will go soft quickly.

 

 

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As you know, it is the tradition on April Fool’s day to prank friends, colleagues or family. But some large practical jokes have appeared in newspapers, websites or been broadcast on radio or television.

Here is a list of 10 very famous ones.

In 1957, the BBC aired an episode of the Panorama program about an increase in spaghetti crops due to a very mild winter and the elimination of the spaghetti weevil, showing footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti off trees. Spaghetti was relatively unknown in the UK at this time and so huge numbers of people were taken in, including the director-general of the BBC, Ian Jacob, who admitted to looking up “spaghetti” in his encyclopaedia. The BBC received many phone calls from viewers wanting to know how to grow their own spaghetti tree, to which the BBC replied “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

In 1962, Swedish National Television showed a 5 minutes special on how to get colour television by placing a nylon stocking in front of the TV, due to a change in light reflection which allowed colours to show through. The special included in-depth physics to explain the phenomenon and a huge number of viewers tried the trick.

In 1976, British Astronomer Patrick Moore told listeners on BBC radio that at 9.47am that day, a rare alignment of Pluto and Saturn would cause gravity on Earth to decrease temporarily. He told people that if they jumped up in the air at that exact time, they would feel a floating sensations. Many listeners tried and called BBC radio to say they had experienced the effet, a lady even claiming that she and her friends had floated out of their chairs.

In 1998, Physicist Mark Boslough wrote an article in the April issue of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, using the name “April Holiday” hinting that in Alabama, a law had been passed that redefined Pi from 3.14 to 3.0 to bring it closer to the biblical value. Many state legislators were inundated with phone calls warning them to left Pi alone.

In 2011, Google announced that it would introduce Gmail Motion, a new technology allowing people to write emails using only hand gestures. The company explained that the system would use a webcam and a spatial tracking algorithm to monitor a person’s gestures and translate them into words and commands. A message could be open by making the gesture of opening and enveloppe. Although it was a practical joke and by then Google had earnt quite the reputation with its 1st of April jokes, a few days later, programmers demonstrated that such a system would be possible using existing technology, even if not very practical.

In 2002, Tesco, a chain of British supermarkets put an ad in the Sun announcing that it had financed the development of genetically modified “whistling carrots”. It explained that the carrots had been specifically created to grow with tapered holes in their sides. When fully cooked, the holes caused the carrot to emit a signal indicating that they were done.

In 1980, the BBC reported that Big Ben was going to be revamped and given a digital display. The report featured people reminiscing about Big Ben’s past and announced that the clock hands becoming obsolete, they would be sold to the first four listeners to call in. One Japanese man onboard a boat in the Atlantic send in a bid via radio. The BBC was inundated with calls from listeners furious that Big Ben was going to be interfered in. Very few people found the hoax amusing and the BBC had to spend several days apologizing.

In 1998, fast food giant Burger King came up with a stroke of marketing genius. They took a full-page ad in USA today and announced the creation of a “left-handed Whopper” with all condiments rotated 180 degrees so as to be easier to hold for the left-handed part of the population. A surprising number of people went to the fast-food outlets asking for the new whopper. An even more surprising number asked for a “right-handed” version of it!

In 1989, Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, decided to drum up some publicity for his new airline by landing an UFO shaped hot air balloon in Hyde Park in London. Unfortunately, the wind blew it off course and sent the balloon to a field in Surrey but the hoax worked and a few motorists, travelling on the M25 called the police to report the presence of the UFO.

In 1977, the newspaper, the Guardian published a 7-page travel supplement on the tropical island of San Serriffe in the Indian Ocean. The report was packed with in-jokes such as the main islands’ names- Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse and the capital’s name Bodoni which is a type of font. Kodak decided to add to the credibility of the story by having an ad asking readers to share their holiday snapshots of San Sherriffe before noon on that day.

 

 

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April Fool’s Day, as it is known, is a day when people play practical jokes on each other and spread hoaxes. Sometimes, jokes happen between people but sometimes, newspapers, magazines and other media publish fake stories, with an apology rectifying things the next day.  april-1-fool

Yet, the origins of this day are quite obscure. One of the most prominent theories is that in 1582, France adopted the Gregorian calendar which moved the first day of the year from April 1st to January 1st. But some people continued to consider the 1st of April as the first day of the year. Little by little, these people were mocked and pranked. And so the tradition started.

Other people argue that it is derived from early pagan renewal festivals to mark the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring.

What is sure is that there have been references to a day of merry making in other cultures like India, or other times like Roman Empire.

The style of April Fools’ pranks has changed over the years. Sending the unsuspecting on pointless errands was an especially prized practical joke in those earlier post-Julian days.

Although the style of April Fool’s pranks has changed over the years, sending an unsuspecting person on a pointless errand is still a strong favourite.

Young mechanics are regularly sent to ask a more senior colleague for a tube of elbow grease, young doctors for a bucket of dehydrated water, and young carpenters for a bag of rubber nails.

So next time someone asks you to get a left-handed screwdriver, a tin of striped paint or a glass hammer, check the date. You might have been pranked!

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