December 21st, 2006

International Kittens of Mystery

Official Birthday

Actually the anniversary was yesterday but, like the Queen, I've decided to give the blog an Official Birthday* and that date is December 21st - Winter Solstice and now Official Anniversary of this blog.

Yes, one official year ago I started this blog with no real idea what I was going to write, how long I could keep it up or whether anyone would read a word I wrote. Now, one year on, I still have no idea what I'll write about tomorrow or the week after or the month after that. Except that there will be kittens (in both pictures and stories), extracts from Nous Sommes Anglais and humour (in both its spellings)

And whimsical items like this:

*Official Birthdays are a cunning invention of the British monarchy and allows the Queen to get twice as many presents and birthday cake as she would otherwise. Each monarch has a real birthday to mark the anniversary of when they were born and an official birthday for ceremonial purposes. The second birthday, like second breakfast, is renowned for extra indulgence.

The practice was begun by Henry VIII who decided that if he could have six wives he could have at least two birthdays. And was the primary reason for splitting from Rome. The Pope, who only had the one birthday, was very angry and threatened to excommunicate Henry unless he renounced his second birthday immediately.

Henry would not, and set about confiscating not only all the church lands but all the monk's birthdays as well. The former he gave to his friends, the latter to the people, making him a very popular monarch.

The practice of second birthdays for the general public died out during the reign of Mary - who, on the advice of the Pope, rescinded them. This made Mary a very unpopular monarch and is the reason why there is a Good King Hal, A Good Queen Bess, but no Good Queen Mary.

Queen Elizabeth, the aforementioned Bess, reinstated second birthdays for all on her accession to the throne. The Spanish king (only the one birthday and therefore a very sad king) was so incensed he raised an Armada and sent it against the English.

With the Armada approaching, Queen Elizabeth wiped the chocolate cake from her lips (for indeed it was upon her second birthday that the dastardly Spanish struck) and raced off to rally her troops. "I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman," she told them. "But I have two birthdays and whilst I live so shall we all!"

After a speech like that the Armada didn't stand a chance. Sir Francis Drake, who had been opening his presents on Plymouth Hoe, sailed off to meet them and with many taunts of 'how many birthdays have you got, Pedro?' routed the Armada in the Channel.

Sadly, second birthdays for all, ended at the accession of Cromwell who didn't even like people having the one birthday. Charles II did reinstate his own second birthday but by then the Protestant Work Ethic was gaining ground and letting the masses have extra birthday cake was seen as scandalous.

Across the Channel, Marie Antoinette was even beheaded for such a suggestion.