Tragedy at Clandon Park
FIRE SWEPT THROUGH THE stately home at the end of April, virtually gutting the Palladian mansion and destroying most of its irreplaceable 19th-century furnishings, textiles and porcelain. More than 80 firefighters struggled to save the National trust property on the outskirts of Guildford, surrey, built in the 1720s for the Earl of Onslow, and in its care since 1956. British Heritage readers may recall that Clandon park was featured in our “Ye Olde Homes” series, January 2013.
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Catch Sandra Lawrence on the Web
Longtime London British Heritage columnist Sandra Lawrence numbers many fans among our readers. Now, catch Sandra’s new online column written just for our website at www.britishheritage.com “with more can’t miss sites and even timelier travel tips.” Online Sandra’s Around Town London explorations and current news will be updated fortnightly—and a useful resource for folks heading to London in the near future.
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Live Like the Dowager Duchess
Historic Byfleet Manor in Surrey is on the market for £3.95 million. The 6,000 sq. ft. mansion was built in 1686 and has hosted kings over the centuries. More famously, however, Byfleet doubles as the home of Maggie Smith’s character in Downton Abbey. The curmudgeonly Lady Violet calls it her “little cottage.”
Conservatives Sweep to Absolute Majority
May’s much-anticipated General Election saw the conclusion to the UK’s first-ever American-style election: a fixed term resulting in a seemingly interminable campaign season. Prime Minister David Cameron retains his tenure at No. 10 Downing street, as he won a second term as Britain’s Head of Government in the General Election.
In what was considered a surprise result, the Tories won an outright majority of 330 in parliament—avoiding a hung parliament and the forced coalition with the Liberal Democrats (or anyone else). It was a political Night of the Long Knives across the UK political landscape. Here is what happened and why.
Good weather and deep feelings brought an astonishing 77 percent turnout for this election. what was predicted to the end to be a tight race, in the event provided an unexpectedly decisive result. Instead of a hung parliament and a scramble for coalition, the Conservatives reign with a clear majority in parliament, with a fractured collection of minority parties holding very differing agendas.
It was the greatest election defeat for Labour since Neal Kinnock’s thrashing by Margaret thatcher in 1987. Labour leader ed Miliband fell on his sword gracefully, taking upon himself the responsibility for defeat as the party lost 24 seats to a decades’ low of 232.
Apart from the Tories, Scotland’s nationalist SNP was the big winner. The SNP swept the table, winning 56 of 59 Scottish constituencies—almost all at the expense of Labour. At this point, Scotland has become virtually a single-party country, which will speak as a unified voice in Westminster.
The election map tells the tale. On social and economic issues especially, Labour and SNP can be expected to vote the same way. It was a fear of that coalition, rather than an enthusiastic mandate for David Cameron’s first-term coalition that delivered the election for Conservatives.
Except for hard-core Labour strongholds of the urban industrial North, English voters did not want to risk a Government held hostage to the Scottish SNP. It was the strategic vote that put the Conservatives over the win line. In its wake, UKIP and the Lib Dems paid the political price.
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Deputy prime Minister Nick Clegg immediately resigned after the Liberal Democrats saw their party reduced from 57 seats in parliament to just 8. the party’s worst defeat in its history resulted in all seven of its leaders in the Cabinet losing their seats.
Not only is the Liberal Democrats’ role in the Government gone, but it has dramatically lost its significance in the political forum. In more than half of the parliamentary constituencies, the party failed to garner five percent of the vote.
UKIP’s colorful leader Nick Farage also stepped down following his own failure to win the seat in South Thanet, and the party’s failure to do more than secure a single seat in Westminster. Nationwide, however, UKIP outpolled the SNP and Lib Dems combined, indicating that their voice is hardly a spent force.
Huge challenges remain for the Conservatives, with Scotland and the European union expected to dominate the agenda over the coming year. Immigration, the NHS and education are issues demanding attention as well. The Tories have the national mandate they sought, now the British voters will certainly hold them accountable.
Meet the World’s Oldest Siblings
Twins Freda and Doris Latham recently celebrated their 101st birthday in their home county of Devon. They were joined by sisters Gladys Camp, 96, and Phyllis Friend, 93. Together, the quartet of siblings has a combined age of 391. The sisters credit their longevity to eating only British food. Good genes may have helped, too.
Duchess of Cornwall Rises in the Polls
At the time of Prince Charles’ marriage to Camilla, few Britons felt that the newly created Duchess of Cornwall should ever be Queen. Now, a YouGov poll taken on the occasion of their 10th anniversary shows that the British public have warmed considerably to Camilla. A great plurality give her good marks for the way she has carried out her duties as Duchess of Cornwall, and fully half now favor her becoming Queen Camilla when Charles takes the throne.
Nation Joins Royal Family in Welcoming Princess Charlotte
BRITAIN HAS ALWAYS CELEBRATED Royal births, and the arrival of the new princess of Cambridge kept them waiting almost two weeks past official expectations. In due course, however, the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to the baby girl to much jubilation of her family and the country. Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana’s traditional names honor her grandfather, great-grandmother and grandmother. The infant Princess Charlotte now becomes fourth in line to the throne.
Digging for Another Lost King
CERTAINLY THE FINAL disposition of Richard III has served as inspiration. Now, Dr. Brian Philip, director of the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit, will lead a dig in search for the bones of King Stephen. Monarch from 1141-1154, Stephen was buried on the grounds of Faversham Abbey, but with the Dissolution and centuries, his exact whereabouts has been unknown. Now, a likely spot has been identified in the playing fields of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School. Let’s see if lightning strikes twice.
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Fire Sweeps Out Royal Train Station
FLAMES TORE THROUGH THE historic Old Royal Station at Ballater, near the Queen’s Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire. Built for Queen Victoria, the station opened in 1866 and saw many generations of the Royal family come and go from Balmoral. Though rail service closed in 1966, the waiting room built for Queen Victoria was the local visitor center. The local landmark, and largest wooden frame rail station in Scotland, was almost completely destroyed.
Three Queens in Historic Joint Visit
MAY BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND saw the uniting of the three Royal Cunard ships known as the Three Queens. In a rare appearance together, the ships lined up on Liverpool’s waterfront in front of the Cunard building. The occasion was organized to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Cunard’s first Atlantic crossing. The Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2 continue the success of the shipping company founded in Liverpool in 1840.
Downton Abbey’s Last Season
With the sixth season of Downton Abbey now in production, it was announced that this will be the popular series’ final curtain. The production company and ITV have decided to bring Downton to a “natural conclusion” and end while its popularity was strong. Viewers can expect a lot of story lines to come together for the Grantham family and loyal staff in these final episodes.
Flotilla of “Little Ships” Reunite
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk, a flotilla of some 50 vessels, the historic “little ships,” gathered off the coast of Kent in May to recreate their mission on May 26-June 4, 1940. The fleet of fishing boats, yachts and life boats took more than six hours to make the 30-mile Channel crossing to Dunkirk. On their original journey, the famous boats aided the British Navy in rescuing 338,000 British and Allied soldiers from the French beach.