Do British peers have a special way of signing their names?

Do British peers have a special way of signing their names?

This passage in wikipedia implies that they do:

Shortly before his death, Forrest was informed that the King had approved his being raised to the British peerage as Baron Forrest of Bunbury. He immediately began signing his name as "Forrest", as if he were already a peer.

But I don't understand what's the big deal with signing his name Forrest (rather than, say, Lord Forrest). Can't a commoner do that?

What am I missing here?

In the old days (meaning pre-Tudor times) the land of Britain was divided into parts each assigned to a man bound to the king by oaths of fealty and often blood ties in one way or another. Such men were responsible for supplying the king with soldiers, if need be, and themselves serving as knights. These men were generally known by the name of the land to which they were assigned. So, for example, Ralph Neville was created Earl of Westmorland by Richard II in 1397. Since this fiefdom was the greatest of all his possessions at the time, he would be known as "Westmorland" in certain contexts, especially military ones.

There are an important reasons for this involving honor and respect. For example, let's imagine I am speaking to the king about Neville's possible participation in a war, I will not call him "Robert Neville", because that would imply I know him, to use his name in a familiar way. I might be construed as implying I were his friend, and even if I were his friend, it would be rude of me to throw his personal name out in front of the king and others. This might get back to him, people saying "Durden was calling you Neville to the king". If I were not his close friend, he might be very insulted by this. It is like those low people and magazines nowadays who refer to Hollywood celebrities by their first names, as though they were somehow their friends.

To show proper respect to such people I would refer to them by their fief or by their title.

Later on, such people became private persons, but the same customs of nomenclature and respect continued, so that titled people would even refer to themselves by their baronage, no matter how small it was, as to suggest their importance.

Now, of course, such usages are quite conceited, because even Ralph Neville, a real peer, would always sign his personal name "Ralph Neville" to any document or letter. In other words, other people would refer to him as Westmorland, but he himself would use his own name. So, when someone like John Forrest starts signing his name as "Forrest" he is putting on airs as though he is some great man, without really understanding the custom in the first place.

Legal Note

I should probably point out that there is point of legality that is significant here. At a certain point the British parliament made laws respecting the use of one's name, and a special exception was created for peers (meaning a member of the House of Lords) whereby they could legally sign their name by the name of their estate, thus "Marlborough" or "Norfolk" or whatever. Over the years, some people considered it significant whether you had the "legal" right to sign your name in this fashion. In general, it was the custom only for those with inherited titles from landed estates to use the title itself. Those, like Forrest, who received their lordship from a civil source would use their surname. For example, Frederick Stanley was known as "Lord Stanley", not "Lord Derby".

From an Australian biographical dictionary:

On 9 February it was announced in the press that Forrest had been recommended for a barony, the first native-born to be so honoured. He was delighted, and thereafter signed only his surname, but was more than a little aggrieved that he was not also prime minister. F. K. Crowley: "Forrest, Sir John (1847-1918)"

Which leads us to look for a pattern, that Cracroft's Peerage - The Complete Guide to the British Peerage & Baronetage is happy to answer:

Even foreign place names are chosen in, for instance, cases where soldiers and sailors who have been ennobled have rendered distinguished service abroad, though it is usual to associate with the title home place names also. Thus Lord Nelson's first peerage was "BARON NELSON, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk", and when, after his death, his honours went to his brother and an earldom was added, the earldom was "of Trafalgar and of Merton in the County of Surrey". The Duke of Wellington was "VISCOUNT WELLINGTON, of Talavero and Wellington in the County of Somerset". In modern times Sir David Beatty was created "BARON BEATTY, of the North Sea and of Brooksby in the County of Leicester", and Field-Marshal Byng was raised to the peerage as "BARON BYNG OF VIMY, of Thorpe-le-Soken in the County of Essex".

So that, as I have said, "BARON BLANK, of Blanktown in the County of Blankshire", is the essential form in which a new title is set out in the Letters Patent in the normal case. This is the form in which the announcement of his peerage subsequently appears in The London Gazette, but it is not his title. That is simply "Lord Blank", and his signature will be merely "Blank". It is not correct for him to be referred to as, or for him to sign himself, "Blank of Blanktown".

Nevertheless there has been an increasing tendency of recent years for newly-made peers to adopt this style and to try to convince others of their right to do so. That deservedly popular and philanthropic peer, the late Viscount Wakefield, invariably signed himself "Wakefield of Hythe", both as baron and viscount, and most writers and newspapers followed his example and referred to him accordingly. But there is nothing in the record of the honours bestowed on him to justify this departure from the normal.

Not long ago it was stated in a popular commentary in one of our most reputable newspapers:

Except where it is necessary to differentiate a title from another of the same name the "of etc." should not be used. I mention this because this rule is sometimes broken by newly-made peers, and often by journalists.

On formal documents, however, the full title is used. This is why Lord Tyrrell's signature, which is thrown on the screen as Film Censor, is Tyrrell of Avon.

With all respect to the writer of that comment his own paragraph was about as full of errors as it could be. He was wrong when in an introductory sentence which I need not quote he referred to "Lord Cherwell of Oxford", and he was wrong in his final "explanation" of when the "of etc." should be used.

A peer's signature is the same whether it is on a formal or an informal document, and, again with all respect to an eminent public servant, Lord Tyrrell was wrong when he appended the signature "Tyrrell of Avon" - whether it be to a film or any other document.

The rules on the point are quite clear. They have been understood and observed for a very long time, but they were definitely formulated by King George V under the guidance of a former Garter Principal King of Arms, the late Sir Henry Burke.

There is some variation throughout the British Isles and times. Fashion doesn't stop at clothes.

A peer's surname was his title. He was Devonshire and not Cavendish, the family name. The children used the family name, he went by the title. A peer's signature was his title… Wellington, Jersey, Rutland, Norwich. They did not use their surnames. They generally did not introduce themselves as "John Johnson, Earl of Marsh," but as "Marsh." He would sign dispatches, letters and other things with just his title- Marsh. His wife would use his title as a surname and sign as E. Melbourne , or Elizabeth Melbourne. Lady Melbourne even sent a letter or two signed with just a Melbourne as her husband did. I was told that this was correct but most of the examples I have seen have the woman signing with her first name or initial and the title.
Do not mix courtesy and peerage titles. If a man is a peer he is never Lord First name anything.
Nancy Mayer, A most proper authority on all things Regency: "Speaking To And Of Titled Persons"

In contrast to:

Not every knight is a lord; not every lord is a knight. It is best not to say My Lord to anyone not so entitled.
A territorial title is one which is attached to a particular piece of land, such as a county.
Peers sign their names and refer to themselves and each other by their territorial titles, such as "Henry Southampton", "Francis Bedford", or "Thomas Rutland".
Life in Elizabethan England: Titles and Forms of Address

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The reign of Elizabeth I is often thought of as a Golden Age. It was a time of extravagance and luxury in which a flourishing popular culture was expressed through writers such as Shakespeare, and explorers like Drake and Raleigh sought to expand England's territory overseas. This sense of well-being was embodied by Queen Elizabeth who liked to wear sumptuous costumes and jewellery, and be entertained in style at her court. But life in Tudor England did not always reflect such splendour. The sixteenth century was also a time when the poor became poorer, books and opinions were censored, and plots to overthrow the Queen were rife. Elizabeth's ministers had to employ spies and even use torture to gain information about threats to her life.

In 1558 the Protestant preacher John Knox wrote, 'It is more than a monster in nature that a woman should reign and bear empire over man.' So was he right? Were women fit to rule the country? The people had lived through the unpopular reign of Mary I, known as 'Bloody Mary' for her merciless persecution of Protestants. Lady Jane Grey was Queen for only a matter of days before being toppled and eventually executed. And Mary Queen of Scots made a series of ill-judged decisions which led her to the executioner's block in 1587.

Elizabeth could be as ruthless and calculating as any King before her.

Elizabeth was a different kind of Queen: quick-witted, clever and able to use feminine wiles to get her own way. Elizabeth could be as ruthless and calculating as any king before her but at the same time she was vain, sentimental and easily swayed by flattery. She liked to surround herself with attractive people and her portraits were carefully vetted to make sure that no physical flaws were ever revealed.

She relied upon the ministers close to her but would infuriate them with her indecision - 'It maketh me weary of life,' remarked one. Faced with a dilemma - for example whether or not to sign the execution warrant of Mary Queen of Scots - Elizabeth would busy herself with other matters for months on end. Only when the patience of her ministers was running short would she be forced to make up her mind. She had a formidable intellect, and her sharp tongue would quickly settle any argument - in her favour.

Do British peers have a special way of signing their names? - History

Too Dangerous for a Lady
A novel in the Rogues World
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Five time RITA winner.


by Jo Beverley
Member of the RWA Hall of Fame for Regency Romance.
"Arguably today's most skilful writer of intelligent historical romance." Publishers Weekly

This brief run-down of English titles is for use by fiction writers. It is by no means comprehensive, but covers the more common situations arising in novels set in the above periods.

At the end I address the question of choosing fictional titles.

The English peerage basically runs according to primogeniture, ie the eldest son gets nearly everything. If a peer has no eldest son, the title and possessions that belong to it go to the next male heir, probably a brother or nephew.

There are a very few titles that can pass to a female if there is no direct heir, but they will revert to the male line when the lady bears a son. (Such as the monarchy.) Some titles can automatically pass through a female heir (when there is no male heir) and most can be revived by subsequent generations by petitioning to the Crown. But that's getting into more complicated areas. If your plot depends on something unusual, please do research it thoroughly before going ahead.

The eldest son is called the heir apparent, since he is clearly the heir. If there is no such son, the next in line is called the heir presumptive since, no matter how unlikely (the duke is actually an ancient Benedictine Monk on his death bed) the possibility of a closer heir being created is still there. Thus an heir presumptive does not hold an heir's title, if any. (See below about heir's titles.)

If a peer dies leaving a wife but no son, the heir inherits unless the widow says she might be with child. It is for her to do that. If she stays silent, it is assumed that she is not. If she's pregnant, everything waits until the child is born.

An heir must be legitimate at birth to inherit a title, though that could mean a marriage ceremony performed while the mother is in labor. A peer may raise bastards with devotion and/or marry the mother later, but a bastard child can never be his legal heir.

Peers automatically had seats in the House of Lords. Note, however, that courtesy titles (those held by heirs) do not give seats, or any of the other privileges of the peerage.

Most peers do not use their surnames as their title. Thus, the usual pattern would be something like Sebastian Burgoyne, Earl of Malzard. He is Lord Malzard never Lord Burgoyne. (Or, for that matter, Lord Sebastian.) As an author, you might like variety, but take as a general rule is that no one ever had two forms of address.


A) Leaving aside royalty, the highest rank is DUKE.

His wife is the DUCHESS. They will be duke and duchess of something, eg. Duke and Duchess of Ithorne. Address is "your grace", though familiars may address them as Duke and Duchess eg "Fine weather for shooting, eh, Duke?" or may address the duke by title. "Care for more port, Ithorne?"

NOTE that the duke will also have a family name, ie. surname (such as Cavendish) but will not use it in the normal course of events. The duchess does not use the surname at all. If Anne Pitt marries the Duke of Stone (whose family name is Cherry), she will be Duchess of Stone and will informally sign herself Anne Stone, not Anne Cherry.

The duke's eldest son is his heir and will have his father's second-best title as his courtesy title. Nearly all peers have a number of titles marking their climb up the ranks. The heir to a duke is often the next lowest ranking peer, a marquess (or marquis -- spelling is optional, but both are pronounced markwess.) The title could, however, be an earldom, or even a viscountcy.

Remember, a courtesy title does not give the holder a seat in the House of Lords or other privileges of the peerage.

If the heir has a son before the heir becomes duke, that son will take the next lowest title as a courtesy title. If the heir dies before his father, his eldest son becomes the heir apparent and takes his father's title.

Apart from the heir, a duke's sons are given the courtesy title Lord with their Christian name, eg. Lord Richard Somerset. Lord Peter Wimsey. They are never Lord Somerset or Lord Wimsey.

All duke's daughters are given the courtesy title Lady, first name, surname eg. Lady Mary Clarendon. (Never Lady Clarendon.) If they marry a commoner, they retain the title. If Lady Mary marries Mr. Sticklethwait, she becomes Lady Mary Sticklethwait. If she marries a peer, she adopts his title. If Lady Mary marries the Earl of Herrick, she becomes Countess of Herrick, ie. Lady Herrick. If she marries the holder of a courtesy title, then she may use his title or her birth title as she wishes.

I'm hammering this home, but it's the most common error in novels. In all cases, the titles Lord or Lady "first name" "surname" (eg Lady Anne Middleton) and Lord or Lady "last name" or "title" (Lady Middleton) are exclusive. No one can be both at the same time. Moreover, Lord or Lady "first name" is a title conferred at birth. It cannot be gained later in life except when the father accedes to a title and thus raises his family.

So, Lady Mary Smith is not Lady Smith and vice versa.
Lord John Brown in not Lord Brown and vice versa.
If Mary Smith marries Lord Brown she becomes Lady Brown, not Lady Mary.
(If she marries Lord John Brown, she becomes Lady John Brown. Yes, it may sound odd to modern ears, but the past is, as they say, a different country. That's the charm of historical fiction.)

B) Next in rank is a MARQUESS (As above, it can be spelled marquis or marquess, but in either case is pronounced markwess.)

He will be Marquess of something, eg Marquess of Rothgar. His wife is the MARCHIONESS. (Pronounced "marshuness".) He is the Marquess of Rothgar, or Lord Rothgar, or Rothgar to his familiars, and his wife is the Marchioness of Rothgar or Lady Rothgar. She will sign herself "firstname" "title" eg. Diana Rothgar.

His heir apparent takes his next highest title as a courtesy title. All other sons have the title Lord "firstname" "surname". All daughters have the title Lady "firstname" "surname". Details are as for duke.

He will nearly always be earl of something. His wife is the COUNTESS. He is referred to as "the Earl of Saxonhurst" or "Lord Saxonhurst", or "Saxonhurst" to his familiars. Some earls do not use "of" as with Earl Spencer, b and in that case the family surname will be the same as the title -- in this case, Spencer -- but this is sufficiently unusual that I think it should be avoided in fiction unless it's a crucial plot point.

His wife is the Countess of Saxonhurst, or Lady Saxonhurst, and she will sign herself Minerva (or Meg -- viz Forbidden Magic -- Saxonhurst.

As with a duke, the earl's heir will take the next lowest title as a courtesy title, and the heir's son, the next again.

All daughters of an earl are given the courtesy title Lady "firstname" -- see dukes. All details are the same. Younger sons of an earl, however, are merely "the honorable" which is not used in casual speech.

D) Next is a VISCOUNT (pronounced vycount.)

His wife is a VISCOUNTESS. He is not "of". He will be, for example, Viscount Middlethorpe, usually known as Lord Middlethorpe, or just Middlethorpe. His wife will be known as Lady Middlethorpe and will sign herself Serena Middlethorpe.

His heir has no special title. All children are known as the honorable.

E) The lowest rank in the peerage is BARON.

His wife is a BARONESS. NOTE that the terms baron and baroness are only used in England in the most formal documents, or when the distinction has to be made elsewhere. General usage is simply to call them Lord and Lady. She will sign herself "firstname" "title". Children as for viscount.

F) Next in rank -- and not of the peerage -- is BARONET.

A baronet is called Sir, first name, surname. eg. Sir Richard Wellesley. His wife is called Lady "surname" eg. Lady Wellesley. NOT Lady Mary Wellesley unless she is the daughter of a duke, marquess, or earl. She will sign herself "firstname" "surname" such as Mary Wellesley.

His children have no special distinction. The title, however, is inheritable which distinguishes it from.

who is the same as a baronet in usage, but is a title for life only. His wife will be Lady "surname"

When a titled lady is widowed she becomes a dowager, but the practice has generally been not to use that title until the heir takes a wife, when there could be confusion as to who is the real Lady Middlethorpe. (As happens in my novel, Forbidden.)

Even if she has a daughter-in-law, in general usage she would still be referred to by the simple title unless there was likely to be confusion. So, if the Dowager Duchess of Teale was at a house party while her daughter-in-law was in London, people would not be constantly referring to her as the dowager duchess.


There are a few, very few, titles that can pass to a daughter if there is no son -- the Royal Family, for example. In this case, the usage is the same as if they were the wife of a peer of that rank, but their husband gains no title from the marriage, just as the Duke of Edinburgh is not king.

A Peeress in her Own Right retains her title after marriage, and if her husband's rank is the superior one, she is designated by the two titles jointly, the inferior one last. Or she can say what form she wants to use. (eg The marchioness of Rothgar is also the Countess of Arradale by right. She chooses to be Lady Rothgar and Arradale in the most formal situations, Lady Rothgar in general, but Lady Arradale in private, especially when attending to her duties as Countess of Arradale. Unusual situations do tend to get complicated.) Her hereditary claim to her title holds good in spite of any marriage, and will be passed on.

Since the husband gains no title from such a marriage, it's possible to have the Countess of Arbuthnot married to Mr. Smith.

Her eldest son will be her heir and take her next lowest title. If she has no son, her eldest daughter will be her heir, but until she becomes the peer she will hold only the title that comes from her birth -- eg. Lady Anne -- if any, because an eldest daughter is always an heir presumptive. There might still be a boy.


  1. Interchanging courtesy titles like Lady Mary Smith and Lady Smith.
  2. Interchanging peerage titles, as when Michael Downs, Earl of Rosebury is variously known as Lord Rosebury, Lord Downs, and Lord Michael Downs.
  3. Applying titles that don't belong, as when Jane Potts marries Viscount Twistleton and erroneously becomes Lady Jane, a title form that can only come by birth.
  4. Having the widow of just about anyone, but especially a peer, remarry before time has elapsed to be sure she is not bearing a child. Or rather, whose child it is that she bears!
  5. Having the heir presumptive assume the title and powers before the widow has made it clear that she's not going to produce an heir.
  6. Having an adopted son inherit a title. Legal adoption was not possible in England until the twentieth century, and even now an adopted son cannot inherit a title. Even if the son is clearly the father's offspring, if he wasn't born after a legal marriage, he cannot inherit the father's title. However, since they didn't have DNA testing, a child was assumed to be legitimate unless the father denied it from the first. Even if the son turns out to look suspiciously like the vicar, the father cannot deny him later. This, I assume was to avoid the chaos of peers coming up with all sorts of excuses to switch heirs on a whim.
  7. Having a title left in a will, which follows from the above. A title cannot be willed to whomever the peer in question chooses. It goes according to the original letters patent, which almost always say that it will go to the oldest legitimate male in direct descent. The property can be left elsewhere, unless it is entailed, but the title goes by legitimate blood.
  8. Having an heiress (ie a daughter without brothers) inherit a title and convey it to her husband. It could be done -- anything could -- by special decree of the Crown, but it was not at all normal.

The question was asked: When writing historical fiction, does one create a title for a character, or do you have to research a title and just use a disclaimer?

Answer: always make it up. When you've come up with a title you like, do an internet search to see if it exists. Also check The Peerage and do a search in Googlebooks advanced search. You can choose date of publication, so you could do a broad search there for the Earl of Glaringdangerously published between 1800 and 1830 and see if any reference turns up.

You don't want to give your fictional character a title that was in use at the time. The main reason is that it's uncouth to appropriate someone's identity. In addition, some, perhaps many, readers will be aware of the real peer which will destroy the fictional reality you're trying to create. Bear in mind that most peers were simple Lord xxxxxx, so you can't have an Earl of Smilingcharmingly when there was a Viscount Smilingcharmingly. If the title was in use in any way, don't use it.

Your internet search should pull up any other uses of the title, and life peerages mean there are lots today. They weren't around a hundred years ago, but it's still not couth to use their title in a fictional work set in the past. Most take their surnames as title, but that can cover a lot of ground. There's a Lord Sugar and a Lord Adonis, both men who've made their way in life from a simple start.

If you really like your title but it exists or existed, it may be possible to alter it and retain the quality that appeals to you. You may fancy Lord Amesbury, but he existed. You could have Lord Aymesbury or Lord Embury.

A good place to hunt for titles is on large scale maps that show the names of villages. Often remainder houses sell last year's large scale UK road atlases for under $10, or you can simply use googlemaps and zoom in. Same thing for surnames. Place names are often specific for certain areas of Britain, so if your character's family has been in Suffolk for generations, look at Suffolk villages for ideas for names.

Or you can get into genealogical records if you want something really local. That's how I came up with a smuggler called Melchisadeck Clyst!

I hope this helps, and though I'm pretty sure it's right it is open to debate and amendment. Please e-mail me at jo at jobevdotcom if you have comments.

Copyright Jo Beverley. You may link to this article or share it, but of you share it I ask that you observe the following rules. Please don't alter it in any way, and please keep the copyright notice in place. Don't use it to make money for yourself or your organization. If possible, include the URL of my web site so people can find out more about my books.

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Benjamin Franklin: Printer and Publisher

Benjamin Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1726, and two years later opened a printing shop. The business became highly successful producing a range of materials, including government pamphlets, books and currency. In 1729, Franklin became the owner and publisher of a colonial newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, which proved popular𠄺nd to which he contributed much of the content, often using pseudonyms. Franklin achieved fame and further financial success with “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” which he published every year from 1733 to 1758. The almanac became known for its witty sayings, which often had to do with the importance of diligence and frugality, such as �rly to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

In 1730, Franklin began living with Deborah Read (c. 1705-74), the daughter of his former Philadelphia landlady, as his common-law wife. Read’s first husband had abandoned her however, due to bigamy laws, she and Franklin could not have an official wedding ceremony. Franklin and Read had a son, Francis Folger Franklin (1732-36), who died of smallpox at age 4, and a daughter, Sarah Franklin Bache (1743-1808). Franklin had another son, William Franklin (c. 1730-1813), who was born out of wedlock. William Franklin served as the last colonial governor of New Jersey, from 1763 to 1776, and remained loyal to the British during the American Revolution. He died in exile in England.

The world standard in knowledge since 1768

For more than 75 years, Pluto was regarded as the ninth planet. In 2006 its size, icy composition, and eccentric orbit led astronomers to reclassify it as a dwarf planet. This resulted in an outcry from the public, who became protective of a ball of ice located some 3.7 billion miles from the Sun.

Named for the Greek goddess of discord, this dwarf planet certainly caused a hubbub when its discovery was announced in 2005. It was so close to Pluto in size that it led the International Astronomical Union to reconsider and eventually revoke Pluto’s status as the ninth planet.

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10 Works of Art That Made People Really Mad

Artists throughout history have never shied away from controversy—in fact, many even try to court infamy. (Need proof? Just look at Banksy, the anonymous street artist who recently created a work that self-destructed the moment it was sold at auction𠅏or a whopping $1.37 million.) While it’s up to critics and historians to debate technique and artistic merit, there are some works of art that shocked most people who saw them. From paintings deemed too lewd, too rude or too gory for their time to acts of so-called desecration and powerful political statements, these are some of the most controversial artworks ever created.

Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

1. Michelangelo, “The Last Judgement,” 1536�

Some 25 years after completing the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Renaissance polymath Michelangelo returned to the Vatican to work on a fresco that would be debated for centuries. His depiction of the Second Coming of Christ in “The Last Judgement,” on which he worked from 1536 to 1541, was met with immediate controversy from the Counter-Reformation Catholic church. Religious officials spoke out against the fresco, for a number of reasons, including the style with which Michelangelo painted Jesus (beardless and in the Classic style of pagan mythology). But most shocking of all were the painting’s 300 figures, mostly male and mostly nude. In a move called a fig-leaf campaign, bits of fabric and flora were later painted over the offending anatomy, some of which were later removed as part of a 20th century restoration.

2. Caravaggio, “St. Matthew and the Angel,” 1602

Baroque painter Caravaggio’s life may be more controversial than any of his work, given the fact that he died in exile after being accused of murder. But his unconventionally humanistic approach to his religious commissions certainly raised eyebrows in his day. In the now-lost painting “St. Matthew and the Angel,” created for the Contarelli Chapel in Rome, Caravaggio flipped convention by using a poor peasant as a model for the saint. But what upset critics the most were St. Matthew’s dirty feet, which illusionistically seemed to jut from a canvas (a recurring visual trick for the artist), and the way the image implied him to be illiterate, as though being read to by an angel. The work was ultimately rejected and replaced with “The Inspiration of St. Matthew,” a similar, yet more standard, depiction of the scene.

Geoffrey Clements/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

3. Thomas Eakins, "The Gross Clinic," 1875

This icon of American art was created in anticipation of the nation’s centenary, when painter Thomas Eakins was eager to show off both his talent and the scientific advances of Philadelphia’s Jefferson Medical College. The realist painting puts the viewer in the center of a surgical amphitheater, where physician Dr. Samuel Gross lectures students operating on a patient. But its matter-of-fact depiction of surgery was deemed too graphic, and the painting was rejected by the Philadelphia Centenary Exhibition (some blame the doctor’s bloody hands, others argue it was the female figure shielding her eyes that put it over the edge). However, a century later, the painting has finally been recognized as one of the great masterpieces of its time on both its artistic and scientific merits. 

Press Association/AP Photo

4. Marcel Duchamp "Fountain," 1917

When iconoclastic Marcel Duchamp anonymously submitted a porcelain urinal signed “R. Mutt 1917” as a “readymade” sculpture to the Society of Independent Artists, a group known to accept any artist who could come up with the fee‚ the unthinkable happened: the piece was denied, even though Duchamp himself was a cofounder and board member of the group. Some even wondered if the piece was a hoax, but Dada journal The Blind Man defended the urinal as art because the artist chose it. The piece marked a shift from what Duchamp called “retinal,” or purely visual, art to a more conceptual mode of expression—sparking a dialogue that continues to this day about what actually constitutes a work of art. Though all that remains of the original is a photograph by Alfred Stieglitz (who threw the piece away) taken for the magazine, multiple authorized reproductions from the 1960s are in major collections around the world.

Photo by Ben Blackwell/Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

5. Robert Rauschenberg, 𠇎rased De Kooning," 1953

In some ways, Robert Rauschenberg’s 𠇎rased De Kooning” presaged Banksy’s self-destructing painting. But in the case of the 1953 drawing, the artist decided the original artwork must be important on its own. “When I just erased my own drawings, it wasn’t art yet,” Rauschenberg told SFMoMA in 1999. So he called upon the most revered modern artist of the day, the mercurial abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning, who, after some convincing, gave the younger artist a drawing with a mix of grease pencil art and charcoal that took Rauschenberg two months to erase. It took about a decade for word of the piece to spread, when it was met with a mix of wonder (Was this a young genius usurping the master?) and disgust (Is it vandalism?). One person not particularly impressed was de Kooning himself, who later told a reporter he initially found the idea 𠇌orny,” and who some say resented that such an intimate interaction between artists had been shared with the public. 

Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

6. Yoko Ono, 𠇌ut Piece,” 1964 / Marina Abramovic, “Rhythm 0,” 1974

As performance art emerged as an artistic practice in the postwar years, the art form often pushed toward provocation and even danger. In Yoko Ono’s 𠇌ut Piece,” a 1964 performance, the artist invited the audience to take a pair of scissors and cut off a piece of her clothing as she sat motionless and silent. “People were so shocked they did not talk about it,” she later recalled. 

Marius Becker/Picture Alliance/Getty Images

Ten years later, Marina Abramovic unknowingly revisited the concept with “Rhythm 0,” in which the artist provided the audience with 72 objects to do what they �sired."ਊlong with scissors, Abramovic offered a range of tools: a rose, a feather, a whip, a scalpel, a gun, a bullet, a slice of chocolate cake. Over the course of the six-hour performance, the audience became more and more violent, with one drawing blood from her neck (“I still have the scars,” she has said) and another holding the gun to her head, igniting a fight even within the gallery (“I was ready to die”). The audience broke out in a fight over how far to take things, and the moment the performance ended, Abramovic recalled, everyone ran away to avoid confronting what had happened. Since then, Abramovic has been called the godmother of performance art, with her often-physically-extreme work continuing to polarize viewers and critics alike. 

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

7. Judy Chicago, “The Dinner Party,” 1974�

With her 𠇍inner Party,” Judy Chicago set out to advocate for the recognition of women throughout history𠅊nd ended up making art history herself. A complex installation with hundreds of components, the piece is an imagined banquet featuring 39 women from throughout mythology and history—Sojourner Truth, Sacajawea, and Margaret Sanger among them�h represented at the table with a place setting, almost all of which depict stylized vulvas. With its mix of anatomical imagery and craft techniques, the work was dubbed vulgar and kitschy by critics, and it was quickly satirized by a counter-exhibition honoring women of 𠇍ubious distinction.” But despite the detractors, the piece is now seen as a landmark in feminist art, on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum. 

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

8. Maya Lin, “Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” completed 1982

Maya Lin was only 21 when she won the commission that would launch her career𠅊nd a national debate. Her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was chosen by a blind jury, who had no idea the winning designer was an architecture student. While the proposed design fit all the requirements, including the incorporation of 58,000 names of soldiers who never returned from the war, its minimalist, understated form—two black granite slabs that rise out of the earth in a “V,” like a “wound that is closed and healing,” Lin has said—was immediately subject to political debate by those who felt it didn’t properly heroize the soldiers it honors. One veteran called the design a 𠇋lack gash of shame,” and 27 Republican congressmen wrote to President Ronald Reagan demanding the design not be built. But Lin advocated for her vision, testifying before Congress about the intention behind the work. Ultimately it came down to a compromise, when a runner-up entry in the competition featuring three soldiers was added nearby to complete the tribute (a flag and Women’s Memorial were also added later). As the distance from the war has grown, criticism of the memorial has faded.

Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Getty Images

9. Ai Weiwei, 𠇍ropping a Han Dynasty Urn,” 1995

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is one of art’s most provocative figures, and his practice often calls into question ideas of value and consumption. In 1995 the artist nodded to Duchamp with 𠇍ropping a Han Dynasty Urn,” a piece he called a 𠇌ultural readymade.” As the title implies, the work consisted of dropping, and thus destroying, a 2,000-year-old ceremonial urn. Not only did the vessel have considerable monetary value (Ai reportedly paid several hundred thousand dollars for it), but it was also a potent symbol of Chinese history. The willful desecration of an historic artifact was decried as unethical by some, to which the artist replied by quoting Mao Zedong, “the only way of building a new world is by destroying the old one.” It’s an idea Ai returns to, painting a similar vessel with the Coca Cola logo or bright candy colors as people debate whether he’s using genuine antiquities or fakes. Either way, his provocative body of work has inspired other acts of destruction—like when a visitor to a Miami exhibition of Ai’s work smashed a painted vessel in an illegal act of protest that mirrored the Ai’s own. 

Doug Kanter/AFP/Getty Images

10. Chris Ofili, “The Holy Virgin Mary,” 1996

It’s hardly shocking that an exhibition called “Sensation” caused a stir, but that’s just what happened when it opened in London in 1997 with a number of controversial works by the so-called Young British Artists: Marcus Harvey’s painting of killer Myra Hindley, Damien Hirst’s shark-in-formaldehyde sculpture, a installation by Tracey Emin titled 𠇎veryone I Have Ever Slept With (1963�),” and Marc Quinn’s self portrait sculpture made of blood. When the show hit the Brooklyn Museum two years later, it was “The Holy Virgin Mary,” a Madonna by Chris Ofili that earned the most scorn. The glittering collage contained pornographic magazine clippings and hunks of resin-coated elephant dung, which media outlets erroneously reported was “splattered” across the piece. New York mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to pull the city’s $7 million grant for the show, calling the exhibition “sick stuff,” while religious leaders and celebrities joined the protests on opposite sides. Two decades later, Ofili’s controversial painting has earned a place in the arc of art history𠅊nd in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. 

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

This is one of their more popular slang terms which means stylish, tough or hardworking. In comparison, our American troops wouldn’t use that word to describe a hardcore Marine — just saying.

No, this one doesn’t stand for North Atlantic Treaty Organization like our minds default into thinking. It’s apparently a common phrase meaning a white tea with two sugars.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Check out Liam Brown‘s video below to hear these slang words perfectly pronounced and explained for yourself.

Military Life

5 insane things about North Korea’s legal system

Posted On February 04, 2020 17:24:53

Here in America, land of the free, when we hear news about North Korea, it further reinforces our desire to never step foot in the reclusive nation. All the negative press that comes from within the DPRK has us sure that it’s the worst place to live — ever.

It has been run by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un since 2012 and, under his rule and the regimes of his father and grandfather, many rules and regulations have been put in place to control the people that call the country home. Many countries around the world have laws that must be enforced — usually for good reason — but some of North Korea’s laws seem to defy both reason and ethics.

To give you a little taste of the hermit kingdom’s skewed sense of justice, we’ve compiled a list of some the most insane legal aspects of North Korea.

You need legal approval to live in the city

If you’re rich and powerful, chances are you’ve already been approved to live in Pyongyang — the largest city in the country. If you’re poor as f*ck, then good luck ever getting a taste of your nation’s capital city. The government must approve of all the citizens seeking to call Pyongyang home.

Weed is legal

We came across this shocker while doing our research. According to a few North Korean defectors, marijuana can be purchased at local markets and you can watch it grow in nearby fields. Who would’ve thought a country ruled by an authoritarian would permit such a thing?

Their hair cuts are regulated

North Korea isn’t known for being fashion-forward. In fact, the people who reside in the strict country may only select from a number of predetermined hairstyles when it comes time to get a cut. It’s said that the government only allows people to sport one of 28 different styles.

If you don’t comply, you face serious penalties. That’s right, people. North Korea has actual fashion police.

You must vote

In most countries, voting is a right. In North Korea, voting is mandatory. If you don’t, you face severe punishment. Elections are held every five years and the same family always seems to win.

Commit a crime, you and your family could do the time

In most countries, only those that commit the crime are punished. North Korea, however, goes a few steps further. To send the message that the country won’t tolerate any lawbreakers, the government can imprison an offender’s entire family for their actions.

In fact, they can send up to three generations of a family to the big house for a single crime.

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The Monarchs: Richard II – The Tragic Boy King

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Richard II succeeded to the English throne at the age of ten and by the age of fourteen was playing a major role in English politics, particularly the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. But his reign was blighted by the ambitions of his powerful uncles, most notably John of Gaunt who constantly threatened Richard with rebellion. More interested in art and culture than war and aggression, Richard sought to bring an end to the Hundred Year’s War and created an atmosphere of refinement and decadence to the royal court. Thought to have been a tyrannical king during his later reign, Richard was unpopular with the masses, and when Henry of Bolingbroke [John of Gaunt’s son] captured Richard, had him deposed and later probably murdered him, he was met with little resistance from Richard’s former subjects.


  • Richard II was born on January 6th 1367 in Bordeaux.
  • On June 16th 1377 Richard became the King of England, Wales and Ireland aged ten.
  • Richard II was married twice, once in January 1382 to Anne of Bohemia and for a second time in September 1396 to Isabella of Valois who was just nine years old at the time of their union.
  • Richard II abdicated his throne on September 29th 1399 and was deposed by Parliament on the same day. He died at Pontefract either by self-starvation or murder.
  • Richard was the son of Edward the Prince of Wales known as the Black Prince and his wife Joan, the 4th Countess of Kent and was born at the Archbishop’s Palace in Bordeaux, Aquitaine on the January 6th 1367.

At nine years old, Richard’s father, The Black Prince, died leaving Richard the titles Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall. Richard had an older brother, Edward of Angoulême, who died at five years old making Richard first in line to the English throne. A year later Richard’s grandfather, King Edward III, died leaving him the title King of England.

At first Richard II submitted to the government of a regency council but in 1381, aged fourteen, he intervened in the increasingly violent Peasant’s Revolt. Richard personally came to an amicable agreement with the leaders of the revolt that successfully ended the uprising, but when his council took over, rescinded the pardons and had the leaders hanged, Richards reputation suffered a drop it never fully recovered from.

While the rule of his grandfather Edward III was marked by almost constant military aggression and wars overseas, Richard II had little interest in expanding his kingdom abroad through violence. Instead, the reign of Richard II was notable for Richard’s constant struggle to defend his throne against his three powerful uncles, the dukes of Lancaster, York and Gloucester. John of Gaunt, the duke of Lancaster, constantly schemed to take the throne from Richard and passed on his ambitions to his son Henry of Bolingbroke.

Richard was married to Anne of Bohemia, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and sister of King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia for clear political reasons, in order to foster a relationship with a strong central European ally against France. Their marriage turned out to be a success both politically and personally as they appeared to be completely devoted to each other throughout their twelve years of marriage although their union did not provide Richard with an heir.

Known to be an autocratic leader, Richard amassed a household of over 10,000 people and used allies within Parliament to support his absolute rule over the kingdom. Known as an aesthete with a refined interest in culture and the arts, Richard cultivated a refined atmosphere at his court and believed strongly in the royal prerogative which basically meant in simple terms that he could do no wrong.

But Parliament, supported by Richard’s unhappy and powerful uncles and led by the influential Earls of Warwick, Derby, Arundel and Nottingham and the Duke of Gloucester, continued to pressure the King to cooperate with them. Eventually, this pressure turned to violence, and the unruly lords took up arms and drove some of Richard’s allies, officials in the royal household, into exile. In 1387 control of government was taken over by this group of aristocrats who called themselves the Lords Appellant. In response, Richard launched a coup d’ état in 1388 and resumed a personal government, gradually diplomatically partnering with the opposition.

In 1394 Queen Anne died suddenly from the plague and due either to grief or the lack of the Queens modifying influence Richard became ever more despotic and extravagant, leading to renewed revolt from his enemies in Parliament. Richard was re-married in September 1396 to Isabella of Valois, daughter of King Charles VI of France, who was just shy of seven years old at their wedding. This union further stabilized the truce in place with France which up to this point had been a 28-year pause in the Hundred Years War. Richard insisted on referring to himself as the King of France and refused to give back ownership of Calais.

In order to placate his uncle, John of Gaunt, Richard legitimized John’s four illegitimate children. John had been engaged in an affair with Katherine Swynford for many years, throughout both of his marriages and their children were almost as old as John’s heir, Henry of Bolingbroke. This simple act, presumably poorly thought-out by the King, came to govern the succession of the English throne in the coming years. All of John’s children, now legitimized by the King, enjoyed huge gains in prestige and wealth and John was temporarily pacified.

Three lords now stood in the way of Richard’s almost complete domination, the Duke of Gloucester, the Earl of Arundel and the Earl of Warwick. Arundel was the first to be arrested and promptly executed, Warwick was taken next heavily fined and exiled and finally, Gloucester was sent to Calais where he died in suspicious circumstances in prison [supposedly instigated by Thomas de Mowbray]. The killing was not over yet. The influential Earl of Derby, John of Gaunt’s son and heir, accused Thomas de Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk of treason, an accusation Richard decided to settle by means of a joust to the death. The battleground was set in Coventry in front of a crowd of thousands of people but just as the deed was about to be done Richard cancelled the joust and banished both Dukes out of England and out of his sight.

Soon after John of Gaunt died but with Henry, formerly the Earl of Derby, in exile, Richard refused to give him his due inheritance. Henry responded by landing in Yorkshire to ‘claim his father’s duchy’ and while he was at it the throne of England as well. Henry captured King Richard and brought him to the Tower of London where he forced him to abdicate his throne on September 29th 1399 before a mixed committee of officials and peers.

The next day at a meeting of Parliament in Westminster Hall, Henry is said to have risen from his place on the duke’s bench and cried out ‘I challenge this kingdom and crown’. In London, Henry’s claim was met with great acclaim and his place on the throne secured, but as always there were those who did not agree with his claim and, due to a complicated genealogy, opposed him as a usurper. Henry dealt with this opposition in the same was Richard would have, provoking his enemies to reveal themselves and having them killed. The constant threat of a swell in support of Richard led to his [alleged] murder in Pontefract Castle on February 14th 1400. Henry V later had his body buried in Westminster Abbey.

Legacy Today

Richard II’s legacy has been shaped so significantly by Shakespeare’s play based on his life that it’s difficult to know what we would think of the King if this play had never been written. Ultimately it was Richard’s inability or unwillingness to work in conjunction with Parliament and his unwavering belief in the royal prerogative that led to his downfall. Although an unsuccessful king overall, Richard showed promise as a young king and his role in suppressing the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 has not been forgotten.