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Essentially England News, August 2008 -- England's Worst Monarch and the mysteries of Eton Mess
August 26, 2008

England's Worst Monarch
and the Mysteries of Eton Mess

Welcome to the August edition of Essentially England News!

And an especially cheerful welcome to everyone who subscribed to Essentially England News during the last month!
Here you'll find England news, site news, travel tips, reviews and our Recipe of the Month, all in one easy-to-digest email.

In Gloucestershire, we've passed the first anniversary of the floods and it stayed dry(ish). But the weather is really trying to be as English as it comes and changes at least six times a day. The roses love it and so do the soft fruits – but all the other garden plants are being decimated by slugs.

Apart from that it's still summer and there's lots going on, so let's dive right into the news.

What's New at Essentially England?

If you've kept half an eye on the England Blog you will have seen much activity in the Travel Tips section.

I've tried to make it more helpful to foreign visitors and have added information about our weather, visas, customs and how to stay healthy during your trip. Additional pages about traffic, transport and driving in England are in the works and I hope that they will make planning your trip much easier.

Travel Tips and Reviews

A lively online discussion about My best day out in England has really made me sit up and take notice.

Obviously, I have my favourite things to do and see, but hearing about skiing trips to England (yes, really!), a Chinese restaurant with a highly unusual line in karaoke, and a barge-cruise on the Thames made me think of a exploring this a bit further.

Look out for a few new pages in the Fun Days Out section of the site.

Fairs, Festivals and Things to Do

Summer time is festival time in England and there are any number to choose from.

After last year's floods, Tewkesbury celebrated its Medieval Festival in style with the largest re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury ever staged. 2000 'medieval knights and soldiers' took part in the display, bringing their very own canon to enliven the fight! The jousting was equally impressive and very popular with visitors.

And the display stalls were just out of this world! Are you looking for a medieval-style wedding dress? Or a full suit of armour? You could have found either at Tewkesbury Medieval Fair, along with arrowheads, swords, medieval cooking pots and even lotions and potions made to traditional 'War of the Roses' period recipes.

And despite a national shortage of plums – caused, I'm reliably informed, by too much rain at blossom time – the annual Pershore Plum Fayre went ahead with its usual vigour. Lovely weather saw the whole town turn out to celebrate local produce and producers. We came to sample the local delicacies, but instead found ourselves admiring the large selection of classic cars drawn up in the park surrounding Pershore Abbey. Wonderful examples of automotive engineering from MG, Triumph, Rolls Royce, Jaguar and Austin – this exhibition was a real plum!

Who Deserves the Title of England's Worst Monarch?

The BBC's Today programme debated this topic last month with a panel of eminent historians before throwing the debate open to the public. Their nominees - Edward II, George IV and Mary, Queen of Scots - are certainly contenders for the dubious honour of Britain's worst monarch.

But they would not have been my choice. I'd vote for Henry VIII every time! Why? He inherited a country that was at peace, united and prosperous. He left it bankrupt, fighting itself and (almost) without an heir. And during his reign he destroyed medieval art and architecture on a monumental scale. For that act of vandalism alone he deserves the title of England's Worst Monarch!

Don't believe me? Just try and picture England with its great abbeys and cathedrals still standing! Imagine industry and learning where now nothing but ruins remain. Like few monarchs before or since, Henry VIII changed the face of England. He gets my vote!

Recipe of the Month - The Sublime "Eton Mess"

With raspberries being at their absolute best right now, try your hand making Eton Mess this month! Tradition has it that this dessert was invented at the famous school and served at the prize-giving ceremony at the end of summer term.

It's traditionally made with either strawberries or bananas (yuk!), but to my mind the raspberry version has a lot going for it. The tartness of the berry juices cuts nicely through the rich cream and if your raspberries are on the ripe side, the pudding turns a delicious shade of pink.

Eton Mess is tasty, quick and easy to make and looks simply stunning at the end of a big family lunch or as a treat out in the garden. And here's how you make enough to feed four:

  • 8 meringue nests (make your own if you have the time and inclination, but decent bought ones will do nicely)
  • 500ml of whipping or double cream
  • 250g of ripe raspberries (or any other fruit you fancy)

Whip the cream until it holds its shape.

Crumble the meringue nests and fold gently into the cream.

Fold in two thirds of the fruit.

Pile into individual glasses or a large bowl and scatter the remaining fruit over the top.

And if this has given you a taste for English desserts, find more recipes and ideas here

And Next Month …

Look forward to a report from the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival and some gems from the all new Ask a Question about England section.

Until then, keep well and think of England…

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