Historic Scotland has completed a £12 million project to recreate the magnificent colourful oak carvings, known as the Stirling Heads, in the royal palace of James V at Stirling Castle. The original ceiling, which once boasted carvings of the faces of kings, queens, lords, ladies, Roman emperors and ancient heroes, was taken down in 1777 and only 34 of the metre-wide oak medallions survived. Six years ago, however, a project to create a full set of copies to redecorate the ceiling in 16th-century style began, the result of which has now been unveiled and can be viewed by the public when the palace opens later this year.
View of painted replica, Stirling Head number 39, in room PO3 as part of the Stirling Palace Project at Stirling Castle. This head, carved by John Donaldson, depicts King Henry VIII of England in imperial parade armour with a lion couchant on his shoulders. © Crown Copyright and Historic Scotland
Following a survey two years ago that revealed that two per cent of UK teenagers aged between 11 and 16 thought that Auschwitz was the name of a type of beer, eight per cent thought it was a country and 10 per cent admitted they didn’t know what it was at all, a new website, The Holocaust Explained, has been launched, aimed specifically at young people. The site has been spearheaded by the London Jewish Cultural Centre and is designed to promote independent learning about the Holocaust outside the classroom by students across the UK.
An autograph book filled with inscriptions written by First World War soldiers staying at a military hospital, now Shepworth village hall, has been discovered just six weeks after a First World War postcard was unearthed at the former hospital. The book once belonged to Mary Chamberlain, who regularly visited the soldiers during their stay, and was recently found by her son, Roy, among old photographs at his home. The book contains names, sketches and even poems written by recuperating soldiers, many of whom were later killed in battle.
Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin, who was plagued by hallucinations during his life, may have had epilepsy, according to Spanish researchers. Chopin died at the age of 39 of a lung disease now thought to have been due to cystic fibrosis, but doctors in Spain believe he may have also had temporal lobe epilepsy, a condition known to cause sufferers to experience strange visions and intense emotions. Letters written by the composer reveal the extent of his visual hallucinations; one refers to creatures emerging from his piano.
A number of historians and the Scottish government have appealed for a letter, allegedly taken from Scottish hero William Wallace after he was captured by the English, to be handed to Scotland’s National Archives. The letter appears to grant Wallace safe passage to visit the pope in 1300, but the National Archives in London has said that there is no firm evidence that the letter was ever in Wallace’s possession, nor any proof that he visited, or intended to visit, the papal court. The letter is currently being examined by experts at the National Archives and the National Archives of Scotland.
Archaeologists are currently investigating the remains of Winston Churchill’s secret headquarters at the Coleshill Estate in Oxfordshire in the hope of unearthing a new underground operations base. The estate was once the headquarters of a trained guerilla force of volunteers during the Second World War.
An unofficial online poll organised by members of parliament for United Russia has revealed that two thirds of the 270,000 people who have voted so far believe that the body of former revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin should be buried. Lenin’s embalmed corpse has been on display in a mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square since his death in 1924.
A letter written by Scottish poet Robert Burns has been discovered at Floors Castle in Scotland, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe. The letter, which was found in a 19th-century autograph album, is addressed to James Gregory, then professor of medicine at the University of Edinburgh and is dated 13 May 1789. The missive was accompanied by an early version of the Burns poem, On Seeing a Wounded Hare.
You can read our feature on Robert Burns in the January issue – out now.
Roschus Misch, Hitler’s last surviving bodyguard, has announced that he can no longer respond to the deluge of fan mail he receives because of old age. Misch served Hitler for five years and even saw the Nazi leader’s body after his suicide. His character has appeared in many films, but now, at the age of 93, Misch says he can no longer deal with all the correspondence he receives from around the world.
An 18th-century painting by William Hoare, believed to be the first British portrait of a freed slave, is to remain in the UK for the next five years after Qatar Museums Authority agreed to lend the work. It is hoped that the portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo will help shed new light on “cultural and intellectual exchanges in the first half of the 18th century”.
A new publication of wills from Berkshire dating from 1488 to 1652 has given local historians new insights into Berkshire life during the Tudor and Stuart periods. The publication includes detailed inventories, down to the number of teaspoons owned, and is the result of two years’ research. One inventory featured is 14ft long, sewn together on little pieces of velum and lists possessions according to their second-hand value.
And finally, a 2,000-year-old Roman urn used as a lamp by its unsuspecting owner for 40 years, has fetched £370,000 at auction. John Barratt, who died last year, inherited the urn but was unaware of its value; he drilled a hole into the 19-inch antique and fitted it with a lamp socket, complete with red lampshade. The urn fetched 37 times its estimated value.