Winston Churchill Biography Prime Minister (1874–1965)…

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As prime minister of the United Kingdom, Sir Winston Churchill rallied the British people during WWII, and led his country from the brink of defeat to victory.

Synopsis

Born to an aristocratic family in 1874, Winston Churchill served in the British military and worked as a writer before going into politics. After becoming prime minister in 1940, he helped lead a successful Allied strategy with the U.S. and Soviet Union during WWII to defeat the Axis powers and craft post-war peace. Elected prime minister again in 1951, he introduced key domestic reforms. Churchill died at age 90 in 1965.

Early Life

Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born to an aristocratic family on November 30, 1874. As his life unfolded, he displayed the traits of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, a British statesman from an established English family, and his mother, Jeanette “Jennie” Jerome, an independent-minded New York socialite.

As a young child, Churchill grew up in Dublin, Ireland, where his father was employed by his grandfather, the 7th Duke of Marlborough, John Spencer-Churchill. When he entered formal school, Churchill proved to be an independent and rebellious student. He did poorly at his first two schools and in April 1888, he was sent to Harrow School, a boarding school near London. Within weeks of his enrollment, he joined the Harrow Rifle Corps, which put him on a path to a military career.

At first it didn’t seem the military was a good choice for Churchill. It took him three tries to pass the exam for the British Royal Military College. However, once there, he did well and graduated 20th in his class of 130. Up to this time, his relationship with both his mother and father was distant, though he adored them both. While at school, Churchill wrote emotional letters to his mother, begging her to come see him, but she seldom came. His father died when he was 21, and it was said that Churchill knew him more by reputation than by any close relationship they shared.

Churchill enjoyed a brief but eventful career in the British Army at a zenith of British military power. He joined the Fourth Hussars in 1895 and served in the Indian northwest frontier and the Sudan, where he saw action in the Battle of Omdurman in 1898. While in the Army, he wrote military reports for newspapers The Pioneer and the Daily Telegraph, and two books on his experiences, The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898) and The River War (1899).

In 1899, Churchill left the Army and worked as a war correspondent for the Morning Post, a conservative daily newspaper. While reporting on the Boer War in South Africa, he was taken prisoner by the Boers while on a scouting expedition. He made headlines when he escaped, traveling almost 300 miles to Portuguese territory in Mozambique. Upon his return to Britain, he wrote about his experiences in the book London to Ladysmith (1900).

Early Careers: Government and Military

In 1900, Churchill became a member of Parliament in the Conservative Party for Oldham, a town in Manchester. Following his father into politics, he also followed his father’s sense of independence, becoming a supporter of social reform. Unconvinced that the Conservative Party was committed to social justice, Churchill switched to the Liberal Party in 1904. He was elected a member of Parliament in 1908, and was appointed to the prime minister’s cabinet as president of the Board of Trade. That same year, he married Clementine Ogilvy Hozier, after a short courtship.

As president of the Board of Trade, he joined newly appointed Chancellor Lloyd George in opposing the expansion of the British Navy. Also in 1908, he introduced several reforms for the prison system, introduced the first minimum wage, and helped set up labor exchanges for the unemployed and unemployment insurance. Churchill assisted in the passing of the People’s Budget, which introduced new taxes on the wealthy to pay for new social welfare programs. The budget passed the House of Commons in 1909, but was initially defeated in the House of Lords, before being passed in 1910. He also drafted a controversial piece of legislation to amend the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913, mandating sterilization of the feeble-minded. The bill eventually passed both Houses with only the remedy of confinement in institutions.

In January 1911, Churchill showed his tougher side when he made a controversial visit to a police siege in London. Police had surrounded a house where two robbers had been caught. Churchill’s degree of participation is still in some dispute. Some accounts have him going to the scene only to see for himself what was going on; others state that he allegedly gave directions to police on how to best storm the building. What is known is that the house caught fire during the siege and Churchill prevented the fire brigade from extinguishing the flames, stating that he thought it better to “let the house burn down,” rather than risk lives rescuing the occupants. The bodies of the two robbers were found inside the charred ruins.

While serving as first lord of the Admiralty, Churchill helped modernize the British Navy, ordering that new warships be built with oil-fired instead of coal-fired engines. He was one of the first to promote military aircraft and set up the Royal Navy Air Service. So enthusiastic was he about aviation that he took flying lessons to understand firsthand its military potential. Though not directly involved in the disastrous Battle of Gallipoli, Churchill resigned his post because he felt responsible for proposing the expedition. For a brief period, he rejoined the British Army, commanding a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Western Front and seeing action in “no man’s land.” In 1917, he was appointed minister of munitions for the final year of the war, overseeing the production of tanks, airplanes and munitions.

From 1919 to 1922, Churchill served as minister of war and air and colonial secretary under Prime Minister David Lloyd George. As colonial secretary, Churchill was embroiled in another controversy when he ordered air power to be used on rebellious Kurdish tribesmen in Iraq, a British holding. At one point, he suggested that poisonous gas be used to put down the rebellion. This proposal was considered but never enacted, though the conventional bombing campaign was and failed to end the resistance.

Fractures in the Liberal Party led to the defeat of Churchill as a member of Parliament in 1922, and he rejoined the Conservative Party. He served as chancellor of the exchequer, returning Britain to the gold standard, and took a hard line against a general labor strike that threatened to cripple the British economy. With the defeat of the Conservative government in 1929, Churchill was out of government. He was perceived as a right-wing extremist, out of touch with the people. He spent the next few years concentrating on his writing and published A History of English Speaking Peoples.

World War II

Though not at first seeing the threat that Adolf Hitler posed when he rose to power in 1933, Churchill gradually became a leading advocate for British rearmament. By 1938, as Germany began controlling its neighbors, Churchill had become a staunch critic of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement toward the Nazis.

On September 3, 1939, the day that Britain declared war on Germany, Churchill was appointed first lord of the Admiralty and a member of the war cabinet, and by April 1940, he became chairman of the Military Coordinating Committee. Later that month, Germany invaded and occupied Norway, a setback for Neville Chamberlain, who had resisted Churchill’s proposal that Britain preempt German aggression by unilaterally occupying vital Norwegian iron mines and sea ports.

In May, debate in Parliament on the Norwegian crisis led to a vote of no confidence toward Prime Minister Chamberlain. On May 10, King George VI appointed Churchill as prime minister and minister of defense. Within hours, the German Army began its Western Offensive, invading the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Two days later, German forces entered France. Britain stood alone against the onslaught.

Quickly, Churchill formed a coalition cabinet of leaders from the Labor, Liberal and Conservative parties. He placed intelligent and talented men in key positions. On June 18, 1940, Churchill made one of his iconic speeches to the House of Commons, warning that “the Battle of Britain” was about to begin. Churchill kept resistance to Nazi dominance alive, and created the foundation for an alliance with the United States and the Soviet Union. Churchill had previously cultivated a relationship with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, and by March 1941, he was able to secure vital U.S. aid through the Lend Lease Act, which allowed Britain to order war goods from the United States on credit.

After the United States entered World War II, in December 1941, Churchill was confident that the Allies would eventually win the war. In the months that followed, Churchill worked closely with U.S. President Roosevelt and Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin to forge an Allied war strategy and post-war world. In meetings in Teheran (1943), Yalta (February 1945) and Potsdam (July 1945), Churchill collaborated with the two leaders to develop a united strategy against the Axis Powers, and helped craft the post-war world with the United Nations as its centerpiece. As the war wound down, Churchill proposed plans for social reforms in Britain, but was unable to convince the public. He was defeated in the general election in July 1945.

During the next six years, Churchill became the leader of the opposition party and continued to have an impact on world affairs. In March 1946, while on a visit to the United States, he made his famous “Iron Curtain” speech, warning of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe. He also advocated that Britain remain independent from European coalitions and maintain its independence.

After the general election of 1951, Churchill returned to government. He was appointed minister of defense between October 1951 and January 1952, and became prime minister in October 1951. In 1953, Churchill was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. He introduced reforms such as the Mines and Quarries Act of 1954, which improved working conditions in mines, and the Housing Repairs and Rent Act of 1955, which established standards for housing. These domestic reforms were overshadowed by a series of foreign policy crises in the colonies of Kenya and Malaya, where Churchill ordered direct military action. While successful in putting down the rebellions, it became clear that Britain was no longer able to sustain its colonial rule.

Later Years and Death

Churchill had shown signs of fragile health as early as 1941, while visiting the White House. At that time, he suffered a mild heart attack and, in 1943, he had a similar attack while battling a bout of pneumonia. In June 1953, at age 78, he suffered from a series of strokes at his office. The news was kept from the public and Parliament, with the official announcement stating that he had suffered from exhaustion. He recuperated at home, and returned to his work as prime minister in October. However, it was apparent even to him that he was physically and mentally slowing down. Churchill retired as prime minister in 1955. He remained a member of Parliament until the general election of 1964, when he did not seek re-election.

There was speculation that Churchill suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in his last years, but many medical experts feel that his reduced mental capacity was more a result of the strokes he had suffered. Despite his poor health, Churchill was able to remain active in public life, albeit mostly from the comfort of his homes in Kent and Hyde Park Gate, in London.

On January 15, 1965, Churchill suffered a severe stroke that left him gravely ill. He died at his London home nine days later, at age 90, on January 24, 1965. Britain mourned for more than a week.

Quotation:Thefamouspeople.com, http://www.biography.com/people/winston-churchill-9248164#video-gallery

Queen Elizabeth II Biography…

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Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain is the longest-reigning monarch in British history. She celebrated 65 years on the throne in February 2017 with her Sapphire Jubilee.

Synopsis

Queen Elizabeth II was born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on April 21, 1926, in London, to Prince Albert, Duke of York (later known as King George VI), and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. She married Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947, became queen on February 6, 1952, and was crowned on June 2, 1953. She is the mother of Prince Charles, heir to the throne, as well as the grandmother of princes William and Harry. As the longest-serving monarch in British history, she has tried to make her reign more modern and sensitive to a changing public while maintaining traditions associated with the crown.

Early Life

Queen Elizabeth II was born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on April 21, 1926, in London, England. At the time of her birth, most did not realize Elizabeth would someday become queen of Great Britain. Her father, Prince Albert, was the second son of King George V and Queen Mary. Elizabeth got to enjoy the first decade of her life with all the privileges of being a royal without the pressures of being the heir apparent.

Her father and mother, also known as the Duke and Duchess of York, divided their time between a home in London and Royal Lodge, the family’s home on the grounds of Windsor Great Park. Elizabeth, nicknamed Lilibet, and her younger sister Margaret were educated at home by tutors. Academic courses included French, mathematics and history, with dancing, singing and art lessons undertaken as well.

Father Becomes King

In 1936, the course of Elizabeth’s life changed with the death of her grandfather, George V, with whom she was said to be close. Her uncle became King Edward VIII, but he was in love with American divorcée Wallis Simpson and had to choose between the crown and his heart. In the end, Edward chose Simpson and Elizabeth’s father became King George VI.

Service in WWII

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret largely stayed out of London, having been relocated to Windsor Castle. From there she made the first of her famous radio broadcasts, with this particular speech reassuring the children of Britain who had been evacuated from their homes and families. The 14-year-old princess, showing her calm and firm personality, told them “that in the end, all will be well; for God will care for us and give us victory and peace.”

Elizabeth soon started taking on other public duties. Appointed colonel-in-chief of the Grenadier Guards by her father, Elizabeth made her first public appearance inspecting the troops in 1942. She also began to accompany her parents on official visits within Britain.

In 1945, Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service to help in the war effort. She trained side-by-side with other British women to be an expert driver and mechanic. While her volunteer work only lasted a few months, it offered Elizabeth a glimpse into a different, non-royal world. She had another vivid experience outside of the monarchy when she and Margaret were allowed to mingle anonymously among the citizenry on Victory in Europe Day.

Marriage and Accession

Elizabeth first met Philip Mountbatten (a surname adopted from his mother’s side), son of Prince Andrew of Greece, when she was only 13, and was smitten with him from the start. Distant cousins, the two kept in touch over the years and eventually fell in love. They made an unusual pair. Elizabeth was quiet and reserved while Philip was boisterous and outspoken. Her father, King George VI, was hesitant about the match because, while Mountbatten had ties to both the Danish and Greek royal families, he didn’t possess great wealth and was considered by some a bit rough in his personality.

At the time of their marriage in the autumn of 1947, Great Britain was still recovering from the ravages of WWII. Elizabeth in fact collected clothing coupons to get fabric for her gown. The ceremony was held at London’s Westminster Abbey on November 20. The family took on the name Windsor, a move pushed by her mother and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and which caused tension with her husband. The couple wasted no time in producing an heir. Son Charles was born the following year and daughter Anne arrived in 1950.

On February 6, 1952, King George VI died, and Elizabeth assumed the responsibilities of the ruling monarch. (She and Prince Philip had been in Kenya at the time of her father’s death.) Her official coronation took place on June 2, 1953, in Westminster Abbey. For the first time, the ceremony was broadcast on television, allowing people from across the globe to witness the pomp and spectacle of the event.

World Traveler

Queen Elizabeth’s long and mainly peaceful reign has been marked by vast changes in her people’s lives, in her country’s power, how Britain is viewed abroad and how the monarchy is regarded and portrayed. As a constitutional monarch, Elizabeth does not weigh in on political matters, nor does she reveal her political views. However, she confers regularly with her prime ministers.

When Elizabeth became queen, post-war Britain still had a substantial empire, dominions and dependencies. However, during the 1950s and 1960s, many of these possessions achieved independence and the British Empire evolved into the Commonwealth of Nations. Elizabeth II has thus made visits to other countries as head of the Commonwealth and a representative of Britain, including a groundbreaking trip to Germany in 1965. She became the first British monarch to tour there in more than five decades.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Queen Elizabeth continued to travel extensively. In 1973 she attended the Commonwealth Conference in Ottawa, Canada, and in 1976 traveled to the United States for the 200th anniversary celebration of America’s independence from Britain. More than a week later she was in Montreal, Canada, to open the Summer Olympics. In 1979, she traveled to Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, which garnered international attention and widespread respect.

A Royal Family

Elizabeth had two more children—sons Andrew and Edward—in 1960 and 1964 respectively. She worked tirelessly to protect the image of the monarchy and to prepare for its future. In 1969, she officially made Prince Charles her successor by granting him the title of Prince of Wales. Hundreds of millions of people tuned in to see the ceremony on television.

In 1981 Charles wed 19-year-old Diana Spencer, with later rumors surfacing that he was pressured into the marriage from his family. The wedding drew enormous crowds in the streets of London and millions watched the proceedings on television. Public opinion of the monarchy was especially strong at that time.

The following year, Elizabeth worried about her second son Prince Andrew, who served as a helicopter pilot in the British Royal Navy during the Falklands War of 1982. Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falklands Islands, a clash that lasted for several weeks. While more than 250 British soldiers died in the conflict, Prince Andrew returned home safe and well much to his mother’s relief.

Threats and Scandals

Elizabeth, as queen, has seen the monarchy come under attack during her lifetime. The once-revered institution has weathered a number of storms, including death threats against the royal family. In 1979, Elizabeth suffered a great personal loss when Lord Mountbatten, her husband’s uncle, died in a terrorist bombing. Mountbatten and several members of his family were aboard his boat on August 29, off the west coast of Ireland, when the vessel exploded. He and three others, including one of his grandsons, were killed. The IRA (Irish Republican Army), which opposed British rule in Northern Ireland, took responsibility for the attack.

In June 1981, Elizabeth herself had a dangerous encounter. She was riding in the Trooping the Colour, a special military parade to celebrate her official birthday, when a man in the crowd pointed a gun at her. He fired, but, fortunately, the gun was loaded with blanks. Other than receiving a good scare, the Queen was not hurt. She had an even closer call the following year when an intruder broke into Buckingham Palace and confronted Elizabeth in her bedroom. When the press got wind of the fact that Prince Philip was nowhere to be seen during this incident, they speculated about the state of the royal marriage.

The love lives of her children have caused Elizabeth heartache as well. The rocky marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana made headlines for years before the couple announced plans to divorce in 1992. Prince Andrew’s union with Sarah Ferguson ended up in the tabloids as well, with photos of Sarah and another man engaged in romantic activity splashed across the front papers. And the Queen’s own husband has inspired numerous public relations headaches with his off-the-cuff, edgy comments and rumors of possible infidelities.

In 1997, Elizabeth went under intense media scrutiny herself in the wake of Princess Diana’s death. Her incredibly popular ex-daughter-in-law, sometimes nicknamed the People’s Princess, died from injuries in a Paris car crash on August 31. The Queen was at her Balmoral estate in Scotland with Prince Charles and his and Diana’s two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, at the time. For days, Elizabeth remained silent while the country mourned Diana’s passing, and she was sharply criticized for her lack of response. Stories circulated that the Queen did not want to give Diana a royal funeral, which only fueled public sentiment against the monarch. Nearly a week after Diana’s death, Elizabeth returned to London and issued a statement on the late princess.

Loss and Change

After the start of the 21st century, Elizabeth experienced two great losses. She said good-bye to both her sister Margaret and her mother in 2002, the same year she celebrated her Golden Jubilee, or 50th year on the throne. Margaret, known for being more of an adventurous soul than other royals and who was barred from marrying an early love, died that February after suffering a stroke. Only a few weeks later, Elizabeth’s mother, known as the Queen Mother, died at Royal Lodge on March 30 at the age of 101.

Known to be a stickler for ceremony and tradition, Elizabeth eventually started to show signs of softening her stance. She had objected to the relationship between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, with the pair having been involved while the prince was married. When the two wed in 2005, Elizabeth and Prince Philip had a reception in their honor at Windsor Castle.

Elizabeth has also emerged as a devoted grandmother to William and Harry. Prince William has said that she offered invaluable support and guidance as he and Kate Middleton planned their 2011 wedding. That same year, Elizabeth showed that the crown still had symbolic and diplomatic power when she became the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland since 1911.

Elizabeth has modernized the monarchy as well. She had dropped some of its formalities and made certain sites and treasures more accessible to the public. As Britain and other nations have struggled financially, she has welcomed the elimination of the Civil List, which was a public funding system of the monarchy dating back roughly 250 years. The royal family continues to receive some government support, but the Queen has had to cut back on spending.

Diamond Jubilee

Despite the occasional call to step aside for Prince Charles, Elizabeth has remained steadfastly on the throne. Some of her duties have been passed on to her eldest son, but she still maintains a busy schedule. Elizabeth handles roughly 430 engagements each year and supports hundreds of charitable organizations and programs.

Elizabeth celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, marking 60 years as queen. As part of the jubilee festivities, a special BBC concert was held on June 4 featuring the likes of Shirley Bassey, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Stevie Wonder and Kylie Minogue. Elizabeth was surrounded by family at this historic event, including her husband Philip, son Charles and grandsons Harry and William. Then on September 9, 2015, she surpassed her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria as Britain’s longest ruling monarch, who reigned for 63 years.

Sapphire Jubilee

On February 6, 2017, the Queen celebrated 65 years on the throne, the only British monarch to ever celebrate her Sapphire Jubilee. The date also marks the anniversary of the death of her father. The Queen chose to spend the day quietly at Sandringham, her country estate north of London, where she attended a church service.

In London, there were royal gun salutes at Green Park and at the Tower of London to mark the occasion. The Royal Mint also issued eight new commemorative coins in honor of the Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee.

Queen Grandmother

In 2013, Elizabeth celebrated another happy event. Her grandson William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, welcomed their first child, George Alexander Louis—known officially as “His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge”—on July 22, 2013. Elizabeth visited her new great-grandson after William and Kate returned home to Kensington Palace from the hospital.

Two years later, on May 2, 2015, William and Kate welcomed their second child, Princess Charlotte, who is also the Queen’s fifth great-grandchild.

In addition to Prince William and Prince Harry, the Queen’s other grandchildren are Peter Phillips, Princess Beatrice of York, Princess Eugenie of York, Zara Tindall, Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.

Relationship With Prime Ministers

As of 2017, Elizabeth has had 13 prime ministers placed into power during her reign, with Queen and PM having a weekly, confidential meeting. (Elizabeth has also met about a quarter of all the U.S. presidents in history.) She enjoyed a father figure relationship with the iconic Winston Churchill, and was later able to loosen up a bit and be somewhat informal with Labour leaders Harold Wilson and James Callaghan. In contrast, she and Margaret Thatcher had a very formal, distant relationship, with the PM tending to be a grating lecturer to the Queen on a variety of issues.

Tony Blair saw certain concepts around the monarchy as somewhat outdated, though he did appreciate Elizabeth making a public statement after the death of Princess Diana. Later, Conservative leader David Cameron, who is Elizabeth’s fifth cousin removed, enjoyed a warm rapport with the Queen. He apologized in 2014 for revealing in a conversation that she was against the Scottish referendum to seek independence from Great Britain. The most recent PM, Theresa May, has been described as being tight-lipped about Brexit plans to leave the European Union, with a rumor circulating that Elizabeth was perturbed over not being informed about future exit strategies.

Screen and Stage Depictions

Keeping in mind the duration of her reign, Elizabeth has been played by a number of well-known actresses on both stage and screen. She has perhaps most famously been portrayed by Helen Mirren, who received an Oscar and Golden Globe, among other accolades, for her starring role in 2006’s The Queen, directed by Stephen Frears. Mirren later played Elizabeth in The Audience, a West End and Broadway play which chronicled the Queen’s aforementioned meetings with various prime ministers and for which the actress earned a 2015 Tony Award. Elizabeth later received a dramatic stage treatment from the formidable Kristin Scott Thomas, who starred in The Audience in 2015.

The Queen has also been played in various films over the decades by lookalike Jeannette Charles and was portrayed by Emma Thompson in the Playhouse Presents TV episode Walking the Dogs (2012). Elizabeth has been more recently portrayed on television screens by Claire Foy; the actress depicts the future monarch at the time of her marriage and political relationship with Churchill (John Lithgow) in Netflix’s The Crown, which debuted in autumn 2016. Foy received a Best Actress Golden Globe for the role.

Health Scare

As 2016 came to end, concerns about the Queen’s health grew. The Queen was reported to have a “heavy cold” and missed several traditional holiday events, including Christmas and New Year’s services. “The Queen does not yet feel ready to attend church as she is still recuperating from a heavy cold,” the palace said in a statement. She made her first public appearance in January since taking ill in December. At that time it was also announced that she would be cutting the number of charities of which she is a patron in an effort to reduce her work obligations.

Personal Life

Not one for the spotlight, Elizabeth likes quiet pastimes. She enjoys reading mysteries, working on crossword puzzles and even watching wrestling on television.

For much of her life, the Queen has surrounded herself with dogs. She is especially known for her love of corgis. Also a horse enthusiast, Elizabeth breeds thoroughbreds and attends several racing events each year.

Quotation:http://www.biography.com/people/queen-elizabeth-ii-9286165#later-years,Cargo

Leadenhall Market in London…

This ornate Victorian marketplace was the setting for Diagon Alley and the Leaky Couldron in the Harry Potter films. 

The ornate 19th-century painted roof and cobbled floors of Leadenhall Market, located in the historic center of London’s financial district, make it a rather magical place to do a bit of shopping — even before it played a starring role in the Harry Potter films.

This covered Victorian market is one of the oldest markets in London, selling meat and fish as far back as far as the 14th century. The current green and red roof, however, was constructed in 1881 and made Leadenhall Market a popular attraction in London.

The marketplace was featured a few times in the Harry Potter series — it was the film location for some of the original exterior shots of Diagon Alley, the cobblestoned shopping hub of the wizarding world where Hogwarts students can stock up on school supplies like spell books and wands.

Today if you wander down the market’s Bull’s Head Passage you may recognize the blue door of an optics shop (an empty storefront at the time of shooting) as the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in Goblet of Fire. In the films, the magical Diagon Alley is accessible to wizards and witches from London through the Leaky Cauldron, an assuming pub wedged next to a record store. If only that were true for us Muggles.

Quotation:http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/leadenhall-market

Platform 9 3/4 in London…

   

Harry Potter fans know: the best way to get to Hogwarts is aboard the Hogwarts Express, which dutifully awaits students of the prestigious wizarding school at Platform 9 3/4 at the start of each term. Reaching the platform, of course, is an adventure in itself; magical blood and nerves of steel are required in order to pass through what appears to be a solid brick barrier to where the platform is located on the other side.

Details of Platform 9 3/4 were made public by the 1997 publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the debut novel of J. K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular Harry Potter series. Kings Cross station reappeared several times throughout the series, serving as the setting for some of the most pivotal moments, and the station was later used as a shooting location in the Harry Potter films. For several years now, Kings Cross has celebrated its role in the beloved books with a marker indicating the location of Platform 9 3/4, below which a baggage trolly can be seen disappearing into the bewitched barrier.

Construction on Kings Cross Station between 2005 and 2012, however, made the magical platform even more elusive than usual, shuffling the marker and accompanying trolly to various locations around the station several times, at one point relegating it to an alcove outside. In 2012 it was announced that the attraction had finally found a permanent home in the New Western Departures Concourse, nestled between Platforms 9 and 10, right where you would expect it.

Important to note: for muggles, the barrier remains quite solid, and Potter fans are advised against attempting to cross it.

Easily found within King’s Cross Station, but allow plenty of time if you wish to wait in line to pose with the magical trolley, or visit the adjacent Harry Potter Shop, especially during the high tourist season.

Quotation:http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/platform-9-3-4

 

Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel in London…

In May, 2008, renowned street artist Banksy held the first Cans Festival in the Leake Street Tunnel. The play on the famous French film festival was a debut of the works of 29 famous street artists invited personally by Banksy, including one of the godfathers of stencil art, Blek le Rat.

Each artist began spraying down a section of wall with their own personal style, showcasing their work and starting a trend that changed Leake Street forever. Only six months after the festival, the road under the former Eurostar station passed into the control of Network Rail and the tunnel was made pedestrian only. Since that time, it has remained a hands-off graffiti area, where artists can show their work without arrest.

Everyday, artists work calmly and without fear as they decorate the walls and the ceiling with vivid color, designs and tags, creating a magnificent urban art gallery beneath Waterloo station.

Quotation:http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/leake-street-graffiti-tunnel

The Ruins of St. Dunstan-in-the-East in London…

One of the few remaining casualties of the London Blitz, this destroyed church has become an enchanting public garden

The church of St.Dunstan-in-the-East has survived a lot during its 900-year history, including the Great Fire of London in 1666.

An English parish church located halfway between the Tower of London and the London Bridge, it was originally built during Saxon times. Although the Great Fire caused terrible damage to the church it was faithfully rebuilt, and topped with a steeple designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

But in 1941, the church was devastated by the Blitz. A direct hit destroyed everything apart from the north and south walls, and Wren’s steeple. The threat of German invasion of the United Kingdom had ended with the Battle of Britain a year earlier, but the sustained strategic bombing of the UK continued. By 1941, the Blitz was reaching its terrible crescendo. Starting on September 7th, 1940, London was bombed for nearly 60 consecutive nights. The night of December 29th saw the most ferocity, as the Luftwaffe blanketed London with bombs in what was called the Second Great Fire of London.

By the end of the Blitz, over 1,000,000 London homes were destroyed, including much of the old Saxon church. After the war, with much of London in rubble, the slow rebuilding process began. But St. Dunstan-in-the-East remained in ruins. In 1967, the City of London Corporation decided to turn the bombed out shell of the church into a public garden, which remains to this day.

Hidden away on a secluded side street, and long since dwarfed by the modern steel and chrome structures of the city, it remains one of London’s secret gardens. One of the last Blitz-damaged buildings left in the United Kingdom, overgrown with trees, ivy, and wall climbing flowers growing amongst the ruined arches, it’s a poignant living memorial to the horrors of the Blitz and a testament to the resilience of the City of London which survived it.

Quotation:http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-ruins-of-st-dunstan-in-the-east

The Largest Countries In The World…

The worlds largest nations, measured in square kilometers of land area.

From Cape Horn all the way to the Arctic Circle, the world’s largest countries provide a beautiful snapshot of the variety of geography, climate and wildlife on the planet. Collectively, the world’s largest countries contain rainforest and tundra, mountains and valleys, coastline and desert.

As this we explore the largest nations, we visit five different continents, some of the world’s most spectacular geography, and every type of climate imaginable.

Excitingly, it’s always changing, too: history has taught that geopolitical boundaries shift dramatically as centuries pass. In the next decades, who’s to say which countries will become the world’s largest?

When 11.5 percent of all the land in the entire world is claimed by just one country, it’s not surprising to learn that the tenth largest country (Algeria) could fit into the largest (Russia) seven times over. When all 10 of the world’s largest countries are taken together, they total 49% of the earth’s entire 149 million square kilometres of land.

10 – Algeria

The Algerian Sahara, the largest expanse of Saharan desert

Algeria, at 2.38 million square kilometers, is the tenth-largest country in the world by area and the only African country in the top 10.

Situated in Northern Africa, Algeria has a Mediterranean coastline 998 km long. 90 percent of the country is desert, and much of its desert regions are highly elevated. The Tell Atlas mountain range runs along the country’s northern border, while the interior, much of it hundreds of meters above sea level, contains the Algerian portion of the Sahara desert. The massive Algerian Sahara extends all the way to the south of the country past its borders with Niger and Mali.

9 – Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country

Kazakhstan’s 2.72 million square kilometers stretch over vast plains and highlands. A cool and dry, but not quite desert-like, climate prevails for most of the year. Kazakhstanis experience a great range of temperatures throughout the year, though it doesn’t get as cold in Kazakhstan as it does in parts of its northern neighbor, Russia.

Formerly part of the USSR, the largest nation in the world for most of the 20th century, Kazakhstan’s current main claim to fame is its status as the largest landlocked country in the world—and the only landlocked country in the top 10.

8 – Argentina

Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia, Argentina

Argentina, the world’s 32nd most populous country, is the world’s eighth largest, and the largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world by area. Its 2.78 million square kilometers include some of the most varied geography and climate in the world.

Swampy, tropical conditions in the very north give way to freezing glacial regions in the south. Patagonia, one of the most spectacular and dangerous places on the planet, stretches from the southern Andes in the west to the Atlantic Ocean in the east. The southern tip of Argentina, known as Cape Horn, is one of the stormiest locations on the globe.

7 – India

India is the second largest nation in terms of population, and seventh largest in terms of area

India’s boundaries have changed quite a few times over the past century, and even still, India claims that the northern region of Kashmir (an area disputed with Pakistan) belongs under Indian control completely. As it stands, without Kashmir, India’s territory stretches for 3.29 million square kilometers.

China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal each share a border with India, and its geography ranges from the majestic Himalayan Mountains to the tropical shores of the southern peninsula. Geologically, India is found on it’s own subcontinent, and geological studies show that this whole nation and it’s close neighbours were at one time separated from Asia by a sea.

6 – Australia

The Twelve Apostles, Victoria State, Australia

The approximately 4.4 million square kilometer difference between Australia and India represents the second-largest size difference between countries ranked consecutively in the top 10. Australia, at around 7.69 million square kilometers, is over twice the size of India.

It’s the largest country in Oceania by far. Technically it is so large that it doesn’t even qualify as an island, it is a continental landmass.

The vast majority of its population live in coastal cities like Sydney in the east and Perth in the west, and with good reason: the Australian Outback is one of the world’s driest and hottest regions. Along with extreme climate and geography, Australia is known for its spectacular—and often deadly—wildlife.

5 – Brazil

Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The largest country in South America at over 8.51 million square kilometers, Brazil plays home to much of the world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon. The Amazon is so dense and vast that explorers and scientists have found human civilizations within—small tribes—that had never made contact with the outside world. Even still, these same experts believe there may be more undiscovered tribes living there unfound still.

Brazil also has a lengthy Atlantic coastline on the eastern side, which stretches approximately 8,000 km. Most of its major cities, including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, were built along this coastline, detouring the thick Amazon jungle.

4 – People’s Republic of China

The Great Wall of China stretches along a long stretch of the northern border of China

China, the United States of America, and Canada each occupy just under seven percent of the globe’s surface. Of these three, China is the smallest—just barely—at approximately 9.6 million square kilometers. It shares a border with 14 different countries, including Afghanistan to the east, Russia to the north, and Vietnam to the south.

Its climate and its people vary dramatically. In the north, temperatures drop to subarctic levels, the center of the nation holds the Gobi, the world’s 4th largest desert, and in the south temperatures reach tropical levels regularly. With over 1.35 billion citizens, China is home to 56 recognized ethnic groups, has the world’s 18th largest Muslim population, the 19th largest Christian population, and with 1.9 doctors per 1000 people, China has more doctors than the entire population of Qatar.

3 – United States of America

Long meandering rivers of North Dakota cut through plains and canyons

The United States, just bigger than China but slightly smaller than Canada, occupies 9.63 million square kilometers. Bordered by Mexico to the south, and Canada to the north, the United States is home to a diverse array of geography and wildlife.

Two North-South features split the nation into three distinct pieces. West of the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific states are known for year round temperate weather and long expanses of beach along the California coast. Sandwiched between the Rockies and the Mississippi River, the great plains stretch from Canada to Mexico, giving the United States one of the world’s most fertile growing areas. Lastly, the third of the nation east of the Mississippi is the industrial and economic hub of America, with major cities spread all along the Eastern seaboard.

2 – Canada

The vast wilderness of Canada is popular for outdoor activity

Canada’s 9.984 million square kilometers make it the largest country in the western hemisphere, and its 202,080 kilometer coastline means that it has a longer shoreline than any other nation. With a population density of 4 people per square kilometer, this means that each of Canada’s 35 million people could have 61 acres for themselves.

Positioned between the Arctic and the United States, Canada’s massive frozen tundra extends into the Arctic Circle. Split similar to the USA; in the western half of the country, the Rocky Mountains run north to south, and prairies provide huge grain and canola growing areas. Eastern Canada is the traditional heart of the nation, with Toronto, Montreal, and the national capital of Ottawa, all located in the East.

1 – Russia

The Trans-Siberian Railroad is the world’s longest railroad

Russia’s 17.1 million square kilometres easily make it the world’s largest by area. In fact, if Russia were to lop off 7 million square kilometers, it would still be the largest—and the lopped-off section would rank seventh overall!

Like China, Russia borders 14 different countries. Unlike China, none of Russia is tropical, though humid summers prevail in much of southern Russia. The Taiga, the world’s largest terrestrial biome, extends all the way from Eastern Canada throughout the vast majority of northern Russia. Massive oil reserves exist underneath Russia’s frozen forests and tundra; however, due to the expense and difficulty of extracting it, much of Russia’s oil wealth remains untapped.

Quotation:http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-largest-countries-in-the-world-the-biggest-nations-as-determined-by-total-land-area.html