"Near noon that eighteenth day of June, their cannons played a bloody tune..."
This summer sees a plethora of celebrations marking the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, with events counting everything from Napoleonic auctions to royal quarters' reenactments and a Waterloo Ball. With blockbuster exhibitions exploring 'Bonaparte and the British' at the British Museum, until 16th August, 'Waterloo at Windsor: 1815-2015' at Windsor Castle and 'Wellington: Triumph, Politics and Passions' at the National Gallery; widespread talks and concerts (including the anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall) and the Wellington Arch and Apsley House, seat of the British Duke who thwarted Napoleon, totally transformed, this landmark anniversary is simply unavoidable.
"We Are Not Amused"
HRH Queen Elizabeth II supersedes her indefatigable great great grandmother Queen Victoria to become Britain's longest reigning monarch this September... That she'll want to keep it low-key is assured, she'll be holed up in Balmoral as is customary for the month of September and will likely want to save the celebrations for her 90th birthday next year. But should you feel royally inclined, London teems with sovereign treasures and places to retrace Queen Elizabeth's footsteps - from the obvious suspects such as Parliament and Buckingham Palace to her favourite royal retailers - Fortnum and Mason, Rigby and Peller and Stewart Parvin.
Buckingham Palace, © LondonView/BritainonView
"A new state of things begun in England; such a strange affair as had never before been heard; for the body wishes to rule the head, and the people desired to be masters over the king...."
Among the most important documents in history, the Magna Carta set out the tenets of justice from King John to his unruly barons eight hundred years ago and became one of the cornerstones of British political justice. Just four of the original documents remain, and for the first time they have been showcased together this year at the British Library before travelling on to Parliament for display in part of a programme celebrating this landmark year for British justice which will see mock trials at the Westminster Hall, flags raised at Parliament, Shakespeare's 'The Troublesome Reign of King John' go on national tour, Magna Carta walks, lectures at leading historical institutions and a Magna Carta Masquerade Ball.
"Curiouser and curiouser..."
Alice's own words could surmise this whimsical and wonderful addition to the list. 150 years on since the publication of Alice in Wonderland, one of the most evocative and magical children's books ever written, sees exhibitions examining her signature style, an immersive theatrical exploration of Wonderland set in subterranean vaults and plays and biographies examining the relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell alongside operas, ballets, concerts and shows.
© Alice artwork by John Tenniel
Perhaps most anticipated of all, though, is Damon Albarn's wow-factor musical Wonder.land commissioned by the new artistic director of the National Theatre which sets Carroll's marvellous universe in a parallel online world, transferring to London in November.
"This was their finest hour..."
So said Winston Churchill, another of the landmark luminaries on our list, ahead of the pivotal Battle of Britain, which saw the German Luftwaffe attempt to wipe out the RAF, then British infrastructure, in the most fearsome air battle ever witnessed.
Churchill with a Spitfire at Castle Bromwich © Philip Insley CBAF Archive Vickers ArchiveSyndics
The RAF's success ultimately thwarted Hitler's attempt to invade Britain, the dodracentenery (that's 75th anniversary to non-Latin speakers) of which will see spitfires and hurricanes take to the skies for air shows and flypasts, a Brompton bicycle race from Paris to London, gala dinners at the RAF Club and other destinations as well as a dedicated fifty pence coin marking the victory.
The Royal Mint's commemorative coins, marking the battle of Waterloo, Briatin and the death of Winston Churchill respectively.
Britain: A Year in History
50 years - Death of Sir Winston Churchill
60 years - Publication of Lord of the Rings
70 years - VE Day
75 years - Battle of Britain
75 years - Dunkirk
100 years - Gallipoli Campaign
125 years - Birth of Agatha Christie
150 years - Publication of Alice in Wonderland
200 years - Battle of Waterloo
600 years - Battle of Agincourt
750 years - Formation of the first English Parliament
800 years - Magna Carta
1000 years - Viking invasion of Great Britain