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WELCOME MAY 2021

A 19th-century painting imagines William Shakespeare reading to Queen Elizabeth I, who admired the playwright’s work

William Shakespeare, the son of a glovemaker from Stratford-upon-Avon, is still widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in the English language, more than 400 years after his death. His works have entertained generations of readers and theatregoers, but what do we know about the man holding the quill? In this month’s essential guide, we’ve teamed up with Paul Edmondson from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to solve some of the enduring mysteries that surround the famous playwright. Did he really abandon his family for fame and fortune in London? Why did he leave Anne Hathaway his ‘second-best bed’? How did he set about writing his plays? Discover the answers from page 26.

Elsewhere, 70 years after it opened its doors to the public, we take a look back at the Festival of Britain – the five-month celebration of British art, architecture, science and industry designed to lift the nation’s spirits after World War II (page 65). We al so explo re how h i sto ry might have been d i erent had the Romans won the battle of Teutoburg Forest in AD 9 (page 70); discover how a group of inmates planned a daring escape from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in 1946 (page 16); examine the complicated relationship between Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler (page 62); and look at the mysterious history of mermaids – from sightings by Christopher Columbus in 1493, to the mummified Fiji Mermaid exhibited in the 19th century (page 58).

Plus, we answer some intriguing historical questions, such as why is the Golden Gate Bridge red? And what was an ornamental hermit? Find out on page 73.

Until next month, stay safe.

Charlotte Hodgman Editor

THIS MONTH’S BIG NUMBERS

1,640 The total number of times that the word

‘love’ is mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays

14 The number of years that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and lover Eva Braun maintained a relationship

0 The number of lives the Daily Mail claimed had been lost on the Titanic in its edition dated 16 April 1912

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