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41 Facts About the 41 Kings and Queens Since 1066

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Queen Elizabeth II is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of William the Conqueror, and she has been related in one way or another to every other king or queen of England (and later of Great Britain, and later still the United Kingdom) since. Ahead of her birthdays (yes, she has two), here is one fact each about all 41 of Britain’s kings and queens since 1066.

1. WILLIAM I

A heckler interrupted the funeral of William I in 1087, shouting from the back of the church that it had been built on his father’s land without his family being compensated. Just when his royal send off couldn’t get any worse, William’s sarcophagus was found to have been built too small to accommodate his body and after an attempt was made to squeeze the body into it—in the words of the English chronicler Orderic Vitalis—“the swollen bowels burst, and an intolerable stench assailed the nostrils of the by-standers and the whole crowd.”

2. WILLIAM II

William II died under questionable circumstances while out hunting in the New Forest in 1100; some have claimed that he was assassinated to secure his younger brother Henry’s claim to the throne. Oddly, he wasn’t the only member of the family to succumb to that fate: William’s elder brother, Richard, also died in a hunting accident in the New Forest around the 1070s, while his nephew, another Richard, died in a hunting accident in the New Forest in 1099.

3. HENRY I

When Henry I died in 1135, his entrails were removed and buried in Rouen in northwest France. The rest of his body was buried in England.

4. STEPHEN

Stephen, son of one of William the Conqueror’s daughters, could credit a bout of diarrhea with saving his life. On November 25, 1120, a vessel called the White Ship was chartered to carry the present king Henry I and much of his family and court (Stephen among them) across the English Channel from France to England. Henry, however, had made other arrangements for himself, leaving the rest of his court to travel on the White Ship as planned. Off the coast of Normandy, the overcrowded ship sank. Of the 300 or so people on board, only one or two survived; among those who died was the king’s only surviving legitimate son, William. Henry I decided to name his daughter Matilda as the successor, but when Henry died she was an unpopular choice, allowing Stephen to claim the throne in a period of civil crisis known as The Anarchy. He had reportedly left the White Ship before it departed due to a sudden bout of diarrhea.

5. HENRY II

Henry II rode his horse so frequently that he was bow-legged.

6. RICHARD I

Richard I was shot through the shoulder with a crossbow outside of Chalus Castle in France in March 1199. The injury was serious, but survivable—but the infection that followed it was not, and he died two weeks later on April 6. As for the shot that brought down the king? It was a lucky shot over the side of the castle from a young boy. It became immortalized as “the lion by the ant was slain.”

7. KING JOHN

King John was reportedly the first British monarch—and perhaps even the first medieval king in Europe—to own what Latin wardrobe records refer to as a “supertunicam domini Regis ad surgendum de nocte,” or a “king’s over-shirt for rising in the night.” In other words, John owned a dressing gown.

8. HENRY III

Henry III was given a polar bear by King Haakon IV of Norway in 1252. He kept it in the Tower of London, and had it taken down to the River Thames each morning to swim and catch fish.

9. EDWARD I

In his campaign against Scotland, Edward I more than earned his nickname “The Hammer of the Scots.” During the Siege of Stirling Castle in 1304, Edward commissioned the construction of a gigantic trebuchet (perhaps the largest in history) that became known as the Warwolf. The sight of the enormous catapult being constructed outside the castle walls was enough to compel those inside to offer an unconditional surrender—but Edward had none of it, and did not accept the surrender until after he had tried the Warwolf out.

10. EDWARD II

In 1313, Edward II enacted a statute forbidding the wearing of armor in Parliament. It remains in force to this day.

11. EDWARD III

Edward III once attended a Christmas fancy dress banquet dressed as a pheasant.

12. RICHARD II

To celebrate the coronation of king Richard II on July 16, 1377, fountains of wine were opened across London.

13. HENRY IV

The first king of the House of Lancaster, Henry IV was the first king since the Norman Conquest to be a native English speaker.

14. HENRY V

Henry V is the shortest-reigning of all eight of England’s King Henrys. He ruled for 9.5 years from March 20, 1413 until his sudden death in France at age 36 on August 31, 1422.

15. HENRY VI

Henry VI was the only child of Henry V, and his father’s unexpected death meant that he became king when he was just 9 months old. He reigned almost 40 years over a 50-year timespan (he was deposed for almost a decade by Edward IV) and supposedly died from “pure melancholy and displeasure” on hearing of the death of his son in 1471 (although many historians suspect he was murdered on Edward IV’s orders). Shortly after, a movement emerged to have Henry canonized as a saint. The many miracles “Saint Henry” are supposed to have been responsible for include saving a drowned boy, curing a man of scrofula, and resurrecting a young girl named Alice Newnett who had died of the plague.

16. EDWARD IV

Edward IV and his House of York took the throne from the opposing House of Lancaster in March 1461, following his victory at the extraordinarily violent Battle of Towton. Fought during a blinding snowstorm on Palm Sunday, Towton is believed to be the biggest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil: Somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 troops were involved, of whom a contemporary account estimated 28,000 were killed. Put another way, the Battle of Towton wiped out 1 percent of the entire population of England at the time. Given such a bloody start to his reign, Edward IV has been credited as being, perhaps unsurprisingly, the first king in English history to appoint a bodyguard.

17. EDWARD V

Edward V is both shortest-lived English monarch post-conquest and the shortest-reigning English king (albeit uncrowned). Although his fate as one of the ill-fated Princes in the Tower is unclear, it has long been (controversially) assumed that he was murdered after just 78 days on throne on the orders of his successor, Richard III. He was just 12 years old at the time.

18. RICHARD III

When the skeleton of Richard III was unearthed in a car park in Leicester in 2012, analysis of his skull showed that he suffered from tooth decay (a result of the king’s rich diet—he drank a bottle of wine every day) and bruxism, better known as teeth grinding.

19. HENRY VII

Henry VII was the first English monarch to have a fully realized portrait stamped onto his coins. Before then, royal monetary portraiture was largely stylized and comprised little more than a crowned head, but a groat (equal to four pence) minted in London sometime around 1507 was embossed with a surprisingly realistic profile portrait of the king.

20. HENRY VIII

In 1520, Henry VIII challenged the king of France, Francis I, to a wrestling match. Henry lost [PDF].

21. EDWARD VI

Despite his youth (he was 9 when he as crowned and 15 when he died), Edward VI is credited with being the first English monarch to charter an exploration of the Arctic. The king was a keen geographer and had learned to read a compass from the Venetian explorer Sebastian Cabot. In 1553, Cabot championed an expedition, led by Sir Hugh Willoughby, to reach China via the Arctic Sea; Willoughby took with him letters signed by Edward VI and addressed to “the Kings, Princes, and other Potentates inhabiting the Northeast partes of the worlde.” Unfortunately, after a harsh storm Willoughby’s ships became encased in ice east of Murmansk and the entire crew perished. But one of the other captains, Richard Chancellor, found himself in Russia, where the letter was delivered to Ivan the Terrible and opened trade between England and Russia.

22. MARY I

After Edward's death in 1553, 16-year-old Lady Jane Grey—the great-granddaughter of Henry VII—ascended the throne. She had been named Edward's successor in a bid to keep Protestant control of England. Despite her youth, she was exceptionally well read and spoke Latin, Hebrew, and Italian. Her "reign" (which historians still debate) lasted just nine days; she was deposed by Mary I—a.k.a. Bloody Mary—on July 19, 1553, and was eventually executed in February 1554. Mary had two female court jesters, one of whom was named Lucretia the Tumbler.

23. ELIZABETH I

Elizabeth I had effigies of foreign dignitaries and other guests to her court made out of gingerbread.

24. JAMES I

James I kept an elephant in St. James’s Park. It was given a gallon of wine to drink every morning during the winter.

25. CHARLES I

Charles I remains the only English monarch ever to be executed. After he was beheaded on January 30, 1649, his head was sewn back onto his body before he was buried.

26. CHARLES II

Charles II wore an enormous pair of high-heeled shoes to his coronation. They can be seen in his official coronation portrait.

27. JAMES II

After the English took over the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in 1664, they promptly renamed it New York in honor of James, Duke of York—later king James II.

28. WILLIAM III AND MARY II

These two are the only official joint monarchs to have ruled Britain (although some consider Mary I and Phillip II to have also been joint monarchs). William outlived Mary by eight years: she died of smallpox in 1694, while he died of an infection after breaking his collarbone falling from his horse in 1702. Popular legend claims William’s horse had tripped on a molehill.

29. QUEEN ANNE

This monarch's body was so swollen when she died she had to be buried in a square coffin.

30. GEORGE I

Because they contain saltpeter (potassium nitrate) which can be used to make gunpowder, George I allegedly declared all pigeon droppings to be the property of the crown.

31. GEORGE II

The last British monarch to lead his own troops into battle was George II at the battle of Dettingen in 1743.

32. GEORGE III

There’s a myth that on July 4, 1776, George III wrote in his diary, “Nothing of importance happened today.” In fact, he didn’t even keep a diary. He did, however, have blue urine—which has been ascribed to either porphyria or, more recently, to the medication his doctors were giving him.

33. GEORGE IV

In preparation for a meeting the Foreign Secretary, George IV took 100 drops of laudanum.

34. WILLIAM IV

In his youth, the future King William IV served in the Royal Navy and was posted to New York during the American War of Independence. While he was there, George Washington plotted to have him kidnapped. Washington wrote to Colonel Matthias Ogden in March 1782, “The spirit of enterprise so conspicuous in your plan for surprising in their quarters and bringing off the Prince William Henry … merits applause; and you have my authority to make the attempt in any manner, and at such a time, as your judgment may direct.” Needless to say, the plot was never enacted.

35. QUEEN VICTORIA

Queen Victoria was given a musical bustle that played the national anthem whenever she sat down.

36. EDWARD VII

Edward VII had a leather chair fitted with a set of scales to weigh his weekend guests at Sandringham House. He weighed them once when they arrived, and once when they left to ensure that they had eaten well during their stay.

37. GEORGE V

Lord Dawson, royal physician of George V, gave the king a deliberately lethal dose of morphine and cocaine as he lay on his deathbed so that he would die in time to make the following morning’s headlines. Dawson even called his wife in London to tell her to let the editor of The Times know to hold back publication. In his notes, Dawson pointed out “the importance of the death receiving its first announcement in the morning papers, rather than the less appropriate field of the evening journals.”

38. EDWARD VIII

In 2010, a letter written by a steward named Jim Richardson from on board the Nahlin, the steam yacht chartered by Edward VIII, was put up for auction. Writing to his mother during a Mediterranean cruise Edward and Wallis Simpson were taking, Richardson wrote that the king had been “drinking heavily,” and, following an argument with Mrs. Simpson, had spent much of his time doing jigsaws. “When he was quiet,” he wrote, “he [the king] was usually fitting together those picture puzzles they have for children. I don’t know if he ever completed one, I don't think he could stay that long at it.” Mrs. Simpson meanwhile was described as “not good looking,” with “a very big mouth” and “a very high pitched metallic American voice.”

40. GEORGE VI

In 1926, the future king George VI competed in the men’s doubles tournament at Wimbledon.

41. ELIZABETH II

Elizabeth II is the first British monarch to have a televised coronation and a televised Christmas address. She sent her first email from an army base in 1976, and sent the first royal tweet in 2014.

All images courtesy of Getty Images unless noted otherwise 

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Food
The Gooey History of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

Open any pantry in New England and chances are you’ll find at least one jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Not just any old marshmallow crème, but Fluff; the one manufactured by Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, and the preferred brand of the northeast. With its familiar red lid and classic blue label, it's long been a favorite guilty pleasure and a kitchen staple beloved throughout the region.

This gooey, spreadable, marshmallow-infused confection is used in countless recipes and found in a variety of baked goods—from whoopie pies and Rice Krispies Treats to chocolate fudge and beyond. And in the beyond lies perhaps the most treasured concoction of all: the Fluffernutter sandwich—a classic New England treat made with white bread, peanut butter, and, you guessed it, Fluff. No jelly required. Or wanted.

There are several claims to the origin of the sandwich. The first begins with Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere—or, not Paul exactly, but his great-great-great-grandchildren Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts. Both siblings were highly intelligent and forward-thinkers, and Amory was even accepted into MIT. But when the family couldn’t afford to send him, he founded a Boston-based company in the 1890s that specialized in soda fountain equipment.

He sold the business in 1901 and used the proceeds to buy the entire east side of Crystal Street in Melrose. Soon after he built a house and, in his basement, he created a marshmallow spread known as Snowflake Marshmallow Crème (later called SMAC), which actually predated Fluff. By the early 1910s, the Curtis Marshmallow Factory was established and Snowflake became the first commercially successful shelf-stable marshmallow crème.

Although other companies were manufacturing similar products, it was Emma who set the Curtis brand apart from the rest. She had a knack for marketing and thought up many different ways to popularize their marshmallow crème, including the creation of one-of-a-kind recipes, like sandwiches that featured nuts and marshmallow crème. She shared her culinary gems in a weekly newspaper column and radio show. By 1915, Snowflake was selling nationwide.

During World War I, when Americans were urged to sacrifice meat one day a week, Emma published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. She named her creation the "Liberty Sandwich," as a person could still obtain his or her daily nutrients while simultaneously supporting the wartime cause. Some have pointed to Emma’s 1918 published recipe as the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter, but the earliest recipe mental_floss can find comes from three years prior. In 1915, the confectioners trade journal Candy and Ice Cream published a list of lunch offerings that candy shops could advertise beyond hot soup. One of them was the "Mallonut Sandwich," which involved peanut butter and "marshmallow whip or mallo topping," spread on lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

Another origin story comes from Somerville, Massachusetts, home to entrepreneur Archibald Query. Query began making his own version of marshmallow crème and selling it door-to-door in 1917. Due to sugar shortages during World War I, his business began to fail. Query quickly sold the rights to his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920. The cost? A modest $500 for what would go on to become the Marshmallow Fluff empire.

Although the business partners promoted the sandwich treat early in the company’s history, the delicious snack wasn’t officially called the Fluffernutter until the 1960s, when Durkee-Mower hired a PR firm to help them market the sandwich, which resulted in a particularly catchy jingle explaining the recipe.

So who owns the bragging rights? While some anonymous candy shop owner was likely the first to actually put the two together, Emma Curtis created the early precursors and brought the concept to a national audience, and Durkee-Mower added the now-ubiquitous crème and catchy name. And the Fluffernutter has never lost its popularity.

In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a full week deliberating over whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. On one side, some argued that marshmallow crème and peanut butter added to the epidemic of childhood obesity. The history-bound fanatics that stood against them contended that the Fluffernutter was a proud culinary legacy. One state representative even proclaimed, "I’m going to fight to the death for Fluff." True dedication, but the bill has been stalled for more than a decade despite several revivals and subsequent petitions from loyal fans.

But Fluff lovers needn’t despair. There’s a National Fluffernutter Day (October 8) for hardcore fans, and the town of Somerville, Massachusetts still celebrates its Fluff pride with an annual What the Fluff? festival.

"Everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood," said self-proclaimed Fluff expert and the festival's executive director, Mimi Graney, in an interview with Boston Magazine. "Whether born in the 1940s or '50s, or '60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it."

Today, the Fluffernutter sandwich is as much of a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or blueberry pie. While some people live and die by the traditional combination, the sandwich now comes in all shapes and sizes, with the addition of salty and savory toppings as a favorite twist. Wheat bread is as popular as white, and many like to grill their sandwiches for a touch of bistro flair. But don't ask a New Englander to swap out their favorite brand of marshmallow crème. That’s just asking too Fluffing much.

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The Hospital in the Rock
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History
Budapest’s Former Top-Secret Hospital Inside a Cave
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The Hospital in the Rock

At the top of a hill in Budapest, overlooking the Danube River, sits Buda Castle, a gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site visited by thousands of tourists every year. Directly underneath the castle, however, lies a less-frequented tourist attraction: a series of ancient, naturally formed caves with a colorful and sometimes disturbing history.

The entire cave system is over six miles long, and most of that has been left unchanged since it was used as cold storage (and a rumored dungeon) in the Middle Ages. Between 1939 and 2008, however, a half-mile stretch of those caves was built up and repurposed many times over. Known as Sziklakorhaz or The Hospital in the Rock, its many uses are a testament to the area’s involvement in World War II and the Cold War.

At the start of World War II, the location served as a single-room air raid center, but operating theaters, corridors, and wards were quickly added to create a much-needed hospital. By early 1944, the hospital had officially opened inside the cave, tending to wounded Hungarian and Nazi soldiers. After less than a year of operation, the facility found itself facing its largest challenge—the Siege of Budapest, which lasted seven weeks and was eventually won by Allied forces on their way to Berlin.

As one of the few area hospitals still operational, the Hospital in the Rock was well over capacity during the siege. Originally built to treat around 70 patients, close to 700 ended up crammed into the claustrophobic caves. The wounded lay three to a bed—if they were lucky enough to get a bed at all. Unsurprisingly, heat from all those bodies raised the ambient temperature to around 95°F, and smoking cigarettes was the number one way to pass the time. Add that to the putrid mix of death, decay, and infection and you’ve got an incredibly unpleasant wartime cocktail.

A recreation inside the museum. Image credit: The Hospital in the Rock 

After the siege, the Soviets took control of the caves (and Budapest itself) and gutted the hospital of most of its supplies. Between 1945 and 1948, the hospital produced a vaccination for typhus. As the icy grasp of the Cold War began to tighten, new wards were built, new equipment was installed, and the hospital was designated top-secret by the Soviets, referred to only by its official codename LOSK 0101/1.

Eleven years after facing the horrors of the Siege of Budapest, in 1956, the hospital hosted the casualties of another battle: The Hungarian Uprising. Thousands of Hungarians revolted against the Soviet policies of the Hungarian People’s Republic in a fierce, prolonged battle. Civilians and soldiers alike lay side-by-side in wards as surgeons attempted to save them. During the uprising, seven babies were also born in the hospital.

Surgeons lived on-site and rarely surfaced from the caves. The hospital’s chief surgeon at the time, Dr. András Máthé, famously had a strict "no amputation" rule, which seemed to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but in the end reportedly saved many patients' lives. (Máthé also reportedly wore a bullet that he’d removed from a patient’s head on a chain around his neck.)

The Hospital in the Rock ceased normal operations in December 1956, after the Soviets squashed the uprising, as the Soviets had new plans for the caves. With the Cold War now in full swing, the still-secret site was converted into a bunker that could serve as a hospital in case of nuclear attack. Diesel engines and an air conditioning system were added in the early '60s, so that even during a blackout, the hospital could still function for a couple of days.

The Hospital in the Rock

The official plan for the bunker was as follows: In the event of a nuclear attack, a selection of doctors and nurses would retreat to the bunker, where they would remain for 72 hours. Afterward, they were to go out and search for survivors. Special quarantined rooms, showering facilities, and even a barbershop were on site for survivors brought back to the site. (The only haircut available to them, however, was a shaved head; radioactive material is notoriously difficult to remove from hair.)

Thankfully, none of these nuclear procedures were ever put into practice. But the hospital was never formally decommissioned, and it wasn’t relieved of its top-secret status until the mid-2000s. For a while, it was still being used as a storage facility by Hungary’s Civil Defense Force. The bunker was maintained by a nearby family, who were sworn to secrecy. In 2004, it was decided that responsibility for the site fell solely on St. John’s Hospital in Budapest, who were seen as the de facto owners in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

By 2008 the bunker was renovated, refurbished, and ready to be opened to the public. Today it operates as a museum, with exhibits detailing life in the hospital from various periods of its history, as well as the history of combat medicine as a whole. The sobering hour-long walk around the hospital concludes with a cautionary gaze into the atrocities of nuclear attacks, with the final walk to the exit featuring a gallery of art created by survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

Another part of the caves beneath Buda Castle. Image credit:Sahil Jatana via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The caves beneath Buda Castle have certainly had a bumpy history, and walking through them now is chilling (and not just because they keep the temperature at around 60°F). A tour through the narrow, oppressive hallways is a glimpse at our narrowly avoided nuclear future—definitely a sobering way to spend an afternoon.

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