512px-Trooping_the_Colour,_the_Colours Did you know that the queen of England celebrates her birthday twice? Once  on her actual birthday, the 21st of April and once on her Official birthday.

The Queen’s official birthday is a date arbitrarily selected to host official  birthday celebrations in all the Commonwealth countries. The dates vary with  each country but generally take place between the end of May and the middle  of June, to ensure good weather for all the outdoor ceremonies.

The monarch’s official birthday was celebrated for the first time in 1748.  Nowadays, it is celebrated on the first, or second Saturday in June. The date  was moved to Autumn by King Edward VII as he was born in November, then  summer in the hope of getting good weather. This year, the ceremonies were  held on the 13th of June in the UK.

On this day, the queen is joined by other members of the Royal Family to watch the parade which moves between Buckingham Palace, the Mall and the Horseguards’ Parade. This parade, known as Trooping of the colours is carried out by operational troups from the Household Division, Foot Guards and Household Cavalry.

This ceremony dates back to the early Eighteenth century when the flags (or colours) were carried out down the ranks of soldiers so they could be seen and recognised.

Nowadays, the Queen is greeted by a Royal salute and inspects the troops. The Regimental colour is then carried down the ranks. Then the soldiers then march past the Queen.

The Queen then rides in a carriage back to the Palace ahead of her Guards where she receives the salute and a fly-past by the Royal Air force from the palace balcony. Members of the Royal Family are invited to witness the Royal Air Force display.

On the Queen’s private birthday, on the other hand, public celebrations are limited gun salutes at midday: a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London and a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park.

Image from Carfax2

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Trooping_the_Colour,_the_Colours.jpg

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

  • 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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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

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.