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WELCOME

MARCH 2024

I M A G E S

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I N O T T/ A L A M Y

: J E N

PA G E

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M A R YA L A M Y

Q U E E N

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I Z A B E T H

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Sibling relationships can often be fraught, but when religious divides, succession disputes and capricious fathers are added to the mix, it’s no wonder when they fall apart. This was the backdrop to the young lives of Mary and Elizabeth, who would both come to rule England, but suffer a great deal of heartbreak along the way. In Nicola Tallis’s cover feature (page 20), she shows how their personal feuds shaped the course of Tudor England.

Elizabeth went on to become one of England’s greatest queens, but did she spend her reign harbouring an astonishing secret? That’s the contention of people who believe in the tale of the Bisley Boy, whereby the young princess died in childhood and was replaced by a small boy of similar appearance who would masquerade as Elizabeth for the rest of her life. This curious story is one of the subjects I explore in my article on conspiracy theories on page 46. From the legends of the Knights Templar to the assassination of JFK, what is it that makes people so keen to believe in alternative versions of the past? There are few bigger fans of historical conspiracy theories than film-makers – Oliver Stone’s JFK being perhaps the best-known example. But cinema plays with history in other ways, too, as Robert Bartlett reveals in his article on page 38. Focusing on a century of medieval film, he examines how the likes of Braveheart and Monty Python and the Holy Grail have reimagined the Middle Ages for the masses.

Rob A tt a r Editor

THREE THINGS I’VE LEARNED THIS MONTH

1. Mute witnesses

In our interview with Judith Flanders on Victorian death, I was interested to find out about the silent mourners known as mutes who would stand ou t s i de t he homes of t he deceased (page 70).

2. Bird feeders

David Musgrove’s article on wheelbarrow racing highlighted some other unusual crazes, notably a 1901 Yorkshire competition where a group of men attempted to eat a pigeon ever y single day (page 31).

3. Elections and corrections

I always learn new things from our Q&A page s , and t h i s month I was intrigued by the story of Eugene V Debs, who ran for the US presidency in 1920, despite being behind bars (page 45).

THIS ISSUE’S CONTRIBUTORS

David Musgrove “Wheelbarrows do not drive many people crazy, but they grabbed the headlines in 1886. It’s one of the odder stories I’ve researched but it’s one that shines a light on the media’s role in whipping up a public frenzy.” David investigates the wheelbarrow craze that swept 1880s Britain on page 30

Judith Flanders “Being a historian of daily li fe is fun. But li fe involves death, and turning away was not going to make the subject disappear. So it was time death found its place in my research, right beside life.” Judith discusses her new book on death in Victorian Britain on page 68

Islam Issa “A unique city whose origins stem from the power of vision, Alexandria has always been an important part of me. Its millennia-long tale uncovers a rich and gripping story of a city that changed the world.” Islam reveals how Alexandria grew in to the world’s fi r s t global city on page 58

Nicola Tallis “Mar y I and Elizabeth I are the most famous sisters in Tudor history, but we often think of them as individuals. It has been fascinating to delve into the twists and turns of the siblings’ relationship, for ultimately their fates were inextricably linked.” Nicola examines the bond between Henry VIII’s daughters on page 20

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