The Homeward Mail – News from the East

Posted on December 15th, 2016 by Mary McKee

The British Newspaper Archive brings you news from India, China, and further East during the height of the British Empire.  The Homeward Mail from India, China and the East was first published in 1857 by Messrs. Smith, Elder, & Co. and provided Britain with news from its colonies in the East.  The publishing company also produced the first Dictionary of National Biography and worked with major authors such as Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Alfred Tennyson, and Arthur Conan Doyle.  Along with The Homeward Mail, they published The Overland Mail, a newspaper for people living in the East featuring news of Britain and Europe.

A predominate part of The Homeward Mail focused on news from India, the crown in the British imperial crown.  Each edition displayed a table of content on the front page.  The news was organised by the three Indian presidencies – Bengal, Bombay, and Madras – and then news from China.  At the time of publication, India also included parts of present-day Pakistan, Bangladesh, Aden, and Burma.

Every edition usually ran between 30 and 40 pages in length and carried news of appointments, military orders, commercial and shipping intelligence, and the latest in political news. In the early years, The Homeward Mail was published every two weeks, and then by 1857, it was published weekly.  In 1907, the paper amalgamated with Allen’s Indian Mail and expanded its readership.

The first edition was published on 1 January 1857, only months before the beginning of the Indian Mutiny, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny or India’s First War of Independence.  The conflict was reported by The Homeward Mail as the revolt of the Indian Army.  On 13 November 1858, the details of a letter inciting rebellion from the King of Delhi, Bahadur Shah II, the last Mughal emperor, was published.  It laid out numerous grievances felt by natives against the British government, such as, ‘the fixed tax they pay to the British Government is exorbitant, they are insulted and ruined by the constant sales of their estates for unpaid revenues’.  To public servants, the King declared, ‘under the British Government they had little respect, low pay, and no manner of influence’.  The King also explained that artisans were ruined after the introduction of British fabrics.


The widespread uprising was a turning point in Indian history, leading to the dissolution of the East India Company.  After 1858, India was ruled directly by the British crown. Britain continued to rule India until 1947.

Another feature of the paper was to publish the names of passengers who arrived back in England and list births, marriages, and deaths.  Notable names received a full obituary.  For example, on Monday 17 June 1912, The Homeward Mail reported, ‘Dr. Selwyn, B.A., M.B., of Hyderabad (Sind) died at the Central Hotel, Kurrachee, on May 29.  She underwent an operation at Hyderabad on the 13th, and as there was no improvement in her condition she was brought to Kurrachee on the 27th.  She practised as a lady doctor in Hyderabad, and did much charitable work there, where she had a wide practice among the more notable zemindari families’.

State dinners were extensively covered, including the names of all those who attended.  The paper commented on society news and followed the happenings of the aristocracy.  On 4 January 1908, a commentary on a society event with both English and Indian women was published.

‘An Indian lady writes: A very enjoyable purdah party was held a day or two ago in Lady Stanley’s drawing-room.  Considering that the meeting was the first of its kind in Allahabad, the number of its high-class Indian ladies present was appreciable.  There were some English ladies also, among those present being Lady Burkitt, Lady Know,Mrs  Aikman, andMrs Richards.  The object of the meeting held at Lady Stanley’s was to promote social intercourse and genuine sympathy between England and Indian ladies’.

Let us know what you find while exploring The Homeward Mail from India, China and the East.

Updated Feature – My Research becomes Saved

Posted on December 13th, 2016 by Elizabeth Bundy

We are excited to introduce you to our updated My Research tool, now called ‘Saved’. Here you can organise your viewed articles into bookmarked folders, resume previous searches, and easily download your research when needed.





Here’s how it works

Review: Saving your search

1. Search the keywords for your research

2. On your search results page use the ‘Save this Search’ button to save your entire search for future research.




Organise: Viewed articles

Forgot to save an article that you recently visited? No problem.
You can visit all of the articles that you have seen, bookmarked or not, by clicking ‘Saved’ on the navigation bar near the top of the page.




Categorising your discovered articles is now easier than ever:

1. Search the keywords for your research

2. Find an article that you are interested in and then click the Bookmark icon, as circled below, to save it. You will be prompted with a Bookmark window which will let you chose which folder to save that article in.

The Bookmark icon is red for articles that you have SAVED. Move your mouse over the Bookmark to review which folder the article is SAVED in.

3. You can create new folders and edit the article’s location with only a few clicks

4. You can also easily download your articles from the SAVED page – give it a go.



 Try SAVED now


Liz Bonnin’s Presbyterian connections in Trinidad

Posted on December 9th, 2016 by Mary McKee

Last night, during Who Do You Think You Are? we searched through Liz Bonnin’s family tree and discovered her Indian and French heritage. This week’s episode opened with gorgeous views of a sun soaked beach and crashing waves, making us all envious as we watched by our fires and with hot cups of tea in our hands.  The first part of the episode took us to Bonnin’s mother’s home in Trinidad to find more clues about Liz’s Indian ancestors. Early in the episode it was revealed that Liz’s family were significantly involved with the Presbyterian Church in Trinidad. By using The British Newspaper Archive, we are able to follow the story of the Presbyterian missions and see how they grew and developed at the same time that Liz’s family were establishing a new life in Trinidad.

In 1877, a correspondent of the London Evening Standard from Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad, described the island as a paradise for the naturalist, ‘abounding in zoological and botanic treasures’. It would have been a wonderland for someone like Bonnin, who later received her masters in wild life biology. The revelation of Bonnin’s Presbyterian connections came from an obituary detailed that Liz’s great-aunt Sybil Rawle was instrumental in establishing the Susamacher Church in San Fernando.  Susamacher means Church of the Good News and today is has the largest Presbyterian membership in Trinidad. The Susamacher Church is not mentioned frequently in British newspapers, but we did find one report from the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette in 1933, which listed the church, among many others, who were to receive a specialised organ produced by the west country firm, Hele and Company, Ltd. The company built organs specially designed to withstand the climate of Trinidad.

Presbyterians first arrived in Trinidad in the 1830s. A small mission was established by American Presbyterians in lere Village, in south Trinidad, but by the 1860s it was about to fold.  At that time, Reverend John Morton from Nova Scotia arrived and took over the mission. Rev Morton extended his mission to the East Indian community who were working on the sugar estates.

After slavery was abolished in 1838, thousands of people from India arrived in Trinidad as indentured labour.  The Inverness Courier reported on 3 October 1867 that around 18,000 indentured workers had arrived from India in the last 22 years. Indians were contracted to work on the sugar plantations for a set period of time, usually about 5 years, in return for the cost of their travel and lodging. After their employment was complete they could stay in Trinidad or return to India.

In 1873, one year after the arrival of Bonnin’s ancestors from northern India to Trinidad, a letter from Rev Morton was published in the Glasgow Herald describing the lives of the indentured Indian workers. The 19th century newspapers refered to indentured Indian workers as “coolies”. In modern times, the term has been used as a derogatory racial slur. In the letter, Morton describes how many indentured labourers are able to save enough to purchase plots of land.  In 1873, the Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser reported that 5 Indian workers were able to purchase their own sugar estate for $18,000. The workers were allowed to come and go on the estates as they pleased.  Morton described a relaxed atmosphere on the sugar estates.


The letter also detailed that younger Indian children attended school after they completed their tasks for the day. Rev Morton helped to open dozens of schools between 1871 and 1881. Timothy Sirju, Liz Bonnin’s great great grandfather, attended and later taught at one of these schools.

Although it is difficult to follow local news or events of Trinidad through the British newspapers, one can search for news from the Presbyterian missions. In 1870, Rev Kenneth Grant set up a mission in San Fernando. A report from the Alloa Advertiser on 11 March 1871, stats that ‘the little congregation at San Fernando…was not only self-supporting, but contributed £20 during one year to the mission causes promulgated by the Church.’ Most likely, this was the mission that Liz Bonnin’s family was associated with once they arrived in India.

The British Newspaper Archive is an excellent source for news across the world and not just within Britain. National, as well as local, newspapers reported on world events and as we have read in these examples, they also reported on the work of British people or religious groups abroad.



New Illustrated Titles Available

Posted on December 7th, 2016 by Elizabeth Bundy

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Recently The British Newspaper Archive has added a group of illustrated titles to our collection. These image rich newspapers stand apart from the others in The Archive, featuring both drawn illustrations and high-quality photographs. They are also the most modern newspapers in our collection, with The Illustrated London News running all the way up to 2003.  Today, these illustrated newspapers are owned by The Illustrated London News Group.


The Sphere, 1900-1964

Clement Short left The Illustrated London News to start this new ‘Illustrated Newspaper for the Home’ in 1900. The Illustrated London News even began publication of a newspaper titled The Spear in an attempt to steal readership from The Sphere. The Sphere covered world news as well as stories of general interest, and featured illustrations from renowned artists such as Italian illustrator Fortunino Matania.

The Sketch, 1893-1958

An illustrated newspaper produced for people of ‘high society’, The Sketch was the light-hearted sister paper to The Illustrated London News. One popular and regular feature was George E. Studdy’s illustrations of his characters Bonzo the Dog and, later, Ooloo the Cat. It is also the first newspaper to have published the short stories of Agatha Christie.

Britannia and Eve, 1926-1957

An amalgamation of previous publication Eve and Britannia, this ‘Monthly Journal for Men & Women’ featured gossip, short stories, and many fabulous fashion illustrations and sometimes colour photographs, particularly of women’s fashion. It is a great glimpse at culture throughout the time it was published. You will also find beautiful Art Deco illustrations and advertisements throughout its pages.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 1874-1970

The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News started out with a focus on sport and stage, but over the years became more involved in countryside living and matters. It became agriculturally orientated as it approached its 1943 title change to Sport and Country, making it quite unique in our collection. Equestrian reporting is constant throughout its publication run, including reporting on the Royal Veterinary Corps during wartime.

The Graphic, 1870-1932

We have also completed our collection of The Graphic, which was an early rival of The Illustrated London News. It was founded by artist William Luson Thomas, and had a heavy focus on the arts. The Graphic featured a great number of artists in its time and had over 1,000 people in its employment by 1882. Despite its higher cost compared to other illustrated newspapers, The Graphic enjoyed immediate success due to its high standard of illustrations.

The Illustrated London News, 1842-2003

The Illustrated London News was the flagship of The Illustrated London News Group. It was a weekly publication and the world’s first illustrated newspaper. Despite its name, it reported world news and hosted stories covering an eclectic range of subjects. It also covered more whimsical and off-beat news through its running features of ‘From the World’s Scrapbook‘ which covered everyday stories through photography, and ‘Unusual Photographs‘ which was a full page photo feature which ran for over 200 weeks.


Free ‘On this day’ samples are available on the title page of each these newspapers, so why not see what is available today?

Personal and National secrets in Amanda Holden’s family tree

Posted on December 2nd, 2016 by Elizabeth Bundy

We followed Amanda Holden’s journey of genealogy in last night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are?. She kick-started her research by searching for one of her ancestors on The British Newspaper Archive.

Amanda’s mum, Judy, who had been working on their family tree, had been having difficulties finding out the last name of Collin’s wife, Radgoude, Amanda’s 5th great-grandmother. But, thanks to Amanda’s discovery on The British Newspaper Archive, she now had a new trail of clues to follow.

Knowing that Collin Thomas had origins in Cornwall, Amanda used a regional search that led to her finding his name in the Exeter Flying Post. Much to her surprise, Amanda discovered that her ancestor was a convicted felon.

Amanda Holden - Collin Thomas

Exeter Flying Post, 23 January 1806

Finding her 5th great-grandfather in the pages on The British Newspaper Archive was just the beginning of Amanda’s journey of discovery, but it can be a useful tool for family historians at any stage of their research.

Refining the search

Near the beginning of the episode, we see Amanda using two search techniques on The British Newspaper Archive. By using a combination of just two filters, Amanda successfully found Collin Thomas on the first page of her search results. First, she filtered her search by selecting a region from the map on the home page, as shown in the image below.

South West

By selecting a region on the map, any further search results will only include newspapers that were published in that specific region.

Second, Amanda refined her search further by using quotation marks around her ancestor’s name.

filtered search


Using quotation marks around any part of your search means that results must contain the exact phrase within the quotation marks. Searches without any quotation marks will return results with the terms of your search anywhere in the same article.

You can find further useful search tips in our Help and Advice section of the website.

Court cases, military movements, and sinking ships

Amanda was surprised to find out that Collin Thomas was a convicted felon. Newspapers report on a plethora of court cases, from the lowest magistrates and petty sessions all the way up to cases at the Old Bailey, so this kind of reporting could lead you to a gold mine of information.

You may find useful information about a person from court reporting such as the defendant’s physical description, health, level of education, and employment, as well as when and where the crime was committed. If you are lucky, you may even discover pictures of your criminal ancestor. Each newspapers reports on court cases differently, some list daily sessions, others give a case summary or synopsis, and some provide longer articles for more serious cases. Occasionally, reports will even include the case number, which can help you in further research. But you won’t find just criminal names in these reports – you can also find the names of the victims of crimes, witnesses, and court officials, too. With such an abundance of court reporting, you may find one of your own ancestors on The British Newspaper Archive.

You can find a wealth of information on military history and individual soldiers, sailors, and airmen in newspapers – particularly in regional papers.  Newspapers can also help you follow the movements and battles of battalions and regiments. During the Peninsular War, Collin Thomas served in the 7th Division of the 51st Regiment of Foot – knowing this, you can search for the division and regiment names to follow his movements throughout wartime.

Naval events such as the sinking of The Lancastria are extensively covered in newspapers. When searching for such events, you may find that filtering your search to the year, or surrounding months, of the event can help you find more relevant results. Although sometimes censored during wartime, you can usually find useful information such as casualty lists, obituaries, reports of local regiments, and accounts of naval battles and movements within the pages of the newspapers from that time.

So if you are looking for an ancestor, you may surprise yourself by what you can find on The British Newspaper Archive.


Search The British Newspaper Archive today!


It’s our birthday!

Posted on November 29th, 2016 by Mary McKee

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Read all about it, The British Newspaper Archive is 5 years old today!

We are delighted to be celebrating our 5th anniversary at The British Newspaper Archive.  We launched on 29 November 2011 with 4 million pages.  Today, we have four times that amount, and just this week, we have passed the 700 mark on the number of titles we hold.  Along with our British titles, we have also published over 125 newspaper titles from across Ireland.

According to our readers, out of the 701 titles we have digitised the top five are

  1. The Scotsman
  2. Morning Post
  3. Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
  4. Dundee Courier
  5. Aberdeen Journal


This year, The British Newspaper Archive has doubled the amount of pages published every week, and in 2017, we will be focusing on obtaining newspapers for every county.  We work in partnership with the British Library, in addition to licensing newspapers from publishers, in order to create the most comprehensive collection.  Luke McKernan, lead curator of news and moving image at the British Library, had this to say about us:

‘The British Newspaper Archive has been a tremendous boon to the British Library. It has enabled millions of pages from our newspaper collections to be digitised and made available to readers anywhere. It has produced digital preservation copies, which we keep in our digital store, ensuring the survival of those newspapers for generations to come. It has also encouraged not just family history research but much important academic research into British lives, culture and society – there are so many researchers out there now who simply couldn’t work without the essential support of the BNA’.

Our readers love all of the stories held within the pages of the newspapers, from historical events such as coronations, declarations of war, and social movements to community news like the history of their local football club.  The newspapers allow you to check out events in world history — from America’s Independence to the Russian Revolution to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.


In the last month, we introduced our freshest feature, the newspaper title pages.


We are thrilled to have added both The London Illustrated News and The Stage to the site this year.  The London Illustrated News provides vibrant coverage of world news with features on arts, culture, and science.

Illustrated London News May 1995

The Illustrated London News, Monday 1 May 1995

In the theatrical newspaper, The Stage, you can delve into London’s theatre scene.  Here you can read a review of Judi Dench’s 1957 theatre debut as Ophelia in Hamlet at the Old Vic.  The young actress made an impression on the reviewer who wrote,

Judi Dench making her first important professional appearance, provides little of interest while she is a sane Ophelia: many another actress could do better.  But in the mad scenes she has a remarkable haunting quality; we are made to believe absolutely that she is moving in a realm outside ordinary human life.’

The Stage 26 September 1957 Judi Dench

The Stage, Thursday 26 September 1957

We would not have been able to make it this far without the support from you, our loyal readers and subscribers.  We want to hear from you to help us celebrate our birthday.  Tell us about your exciting newspaper finds or your favourite titles.

Diving into Danny Dyer’s Past – Learning more from newspapers

Posted on November 25th, 2016 by Molly Wunderli

In last night’s episode, we learned that Danny Dyer is a direct descendant of King Edward III, his 15 times great-grandfather. Many of us lack such famous ancestors, but that doesn’t make ours – and the times they lived in – any less interesting. Let’s take a look at Danny Dyer’s working-class ancestors – some strong male figures that Danny was hoping to find – and learn how the British Newspaper Archive can help you flesh out the lives of our predecessors.


Strong male figures and the changing times

The Dyer line is full of shipyard labourers going back generations. Danny’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, Edward Dyer, started his seven-year apprenticeship in 1803 as a waterman at the age of 14. His son, Edward William Dyer, was born in 1823. He followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming his father’s apprentice. However, Edward William was born during a time of change; the Industrial Revolution was making sweeping changes to how businesses ran and how materials were manufactured. By the 1820s, inroads had been made into the work done on the river and at the shipyards. As such, Edward William decided to change careers and become a boilermaker, an occupation that arose as wood was replaced with iron as the primary construction material. However, by the early 1900s, even this occupation began experiencing a decline.




As the demands of the shipyards continued to change, so we observe a change in occupations. As the effects of industrialisation continued to spread, with machines replacing skilled manual labour and the cost of materials soaring, the consequences were felt across the entire workforce. Throughout his career, Danny’s great-great-grandfather Edward Thomas James Dyer jumped from various jobs within the shipyard, from an iron ship builder to a boilermaker to a boilermaker’s labourer, to simply a labourer.



While the nature of the work and the level of skill needed had changed, there was still work to be had on the docks, but it was for a considerably lower pay. As the wages declined, so did the living conditions of its workers.

Despite these changes and the ever-increasing challenge of finding sufficient work to provide for one’s family, the tradition continued: Edward’s son, Danny’s great grandfather George Dyer, was also a dockworker. He joined the navy and served during the First World War from 1916 to 1919. However, after his service, he returned to the docks working as a labourer.

By the 1920s and 1930s, shipyards began to close in droves, leaving hundreds unemployed. Many families who had worked on the docks for generations saw an abrupt end to that tradition. Such newspaper notices as the ones below can help you track trends in the workforce at the time your ancestor worked and thus help explain why, for instance, your ancestor switched careers or ended up in a workhouse.




Falling on difficult times

It was not only those in the shipyard business who fell on hard times in London in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In last night’s episode, we learned of Danny’s ancestor Mary Ann Buttivant, who experienced much turbulence and heartbreak in her youth. Born in 1878, Mary Ann spent her childhood in and out of the Mile End Workhouse. This was not an uncommon fate for many in the poorer parts of London, where being poor was crime enough to see you put in the workhouse. You can learn more about the local workhouses from newspapers from that time.

For example, Danny could learn from the East London Observer about what provisions were provided for the Mile End Workhouse and how Christmas was celebrated there.




In her late adolescence, Mary Ann was dealt a grievous blow. At the tender age of 17, she gave birth to a baby girl who died shortly thereafter. It appears from the records that her umbilical cord had not been tied off and the child hemorrhaged. In what was most likely a panicked state, Mary Ann sought to conceal the body of her deceased child. When she was found out, Mary Ann was brought to court on the charge of endeavouring to conceal her child. While Mary Ann’s particular case is not found in the newspapers, other women charged with the offense can be found. This can help you view such events in the proper context and understand more of the charges and likely sentencing.



Newspapers provide a rich source for expanding your family’s story – whether your ancestors were famous or not! Search for your ancestors’ names, occupations, or places of residence and see what new details and context you can discover about your family.


Search The British Newspaper Archive today!


New titles this month! November 2016

Posted on November 23rd, 2016 by BNA

We’ve added ten brand new titles to the British Newspaper Archive this month: two national papers and eight county papers from seven counties in England and Ireland.

Cornwall & Devon
Launceston Weekly News, and Cornwall & Devon Advertiser
Cornish & Devon Post

Southern Echo

Thanet Advertiser

Northern Daily Telegraph

Yorkshire Evening Press

Sheffield Weekly Telegraph

Sporting Times
The Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service

Tyrone Courier



Remember! You can explore each newspaper from its very own title page , which includes a free sample issue of the paper. Use the full screen button to read the issue (press the ESC key to get back to the title page).



Full Screen Button


Spotlight on The Naval & Military Gazette
Intended for the mess halls of the military services, The Naval & Military Gazette was written by officers in both services. Although its purpose was to be a newspaper of and for the united services, it also had an audience of general readers who had relatives or friends in the services.

The Naval & Military Gazette contained information not found in general newspapers at the time such as military promotions, intelligence, stations and movements, regimental notes, general orders, correspondence, parliamentary proceedings, and more.

If you have ancestors who were officers or non-commissioned officers in the military, you might be able to find their names in this publication.



Spotlight on Sporting Times
Although Sporting Times (or ‘The Pink ‘Un’ as it was also known due to it being printed on pink paper soon after its launch) largely featured general sports reporting with a strong focus on horseracing, this weekly newspaper also included reviews on books and theatre, often showcasing its writers’ wit.

In 1882, the paper famously coined the term ‘The Ashes’ in reference to cremation. It did so in a tongue-in-cheek obituary printed on September 2nd 1882 after Australia defeated England 3 days previously.

The Ashes

Introducing Title Pages

Posted on November 18th, 2016 by Elizabeth Bundy

Each newspaper title now has its very own title page full of useful information and tools. You can use them to find out what is available for that newspaper on The British Newspaper Archive, sample a free ‘On this day’ issue, and use the search box for searching inside the newspaper.

There are two ways to access our new title pages. The first is by clicking the ‘titles online’ link on the homepage (as shown below) and then selecting any of newspaper titles within.

titles online

The second is by clicking the ‘More details’ button on the coloured banner after browsing to any newspaper from the homepage or filtering your search by any specific newspaper.

more details

Title pages give you an overview about any newspaper on The British Newspaper Archive (BNA).

Free ‘On this day’ sample

On this day

Take a look inside the newspaper with a free sample from a newspaper that was published on this day from a random year in our collection. Just click on the magnifying glass and you’ll be able to navigate through an issue of the newspaper. Come back tomorrow for a new issue, as this section of the page will change daily with the date.

Search this newspaper


By using the search box near the top of the page you can search inside the newspaper.

Check out all issues in the archive

check out all issues

Click here and you’ll be taken to a search page where you can see all issues of this newspaper that are available on the BNA; the issues will appear in chronological order by default.

Issues, Pages, and Available years

issues pages years

These statistics will give you an idea of how much of this newspaper we currently have online at a glance. Newspapers have different publication patterns ranging from daily to monthly, and they also have a wide variety of pages per issue. Some of our oldest newspapers only have 2 pages per issue! We are always adding more to the BNA, so you may see the list of available years grow over time.

For this newspaper…

for this newspaper

Some newspapers change their title over the years, and we file these on the BNA under a main title. In this section of the page, you’ll be able to discover all of the variant titles for the newspaper and which years they were published on.

This newspaper is published by…

publisher info

Just below the list of titles you will find information such as who published the newspaper, where it was published, when it was first added to the BNA, and when the latest issues were added.


If the newspaper is not available in the British Library Reading Rooms and other library premises, you can find this out towards the bottom of the page. If this section is not on the page then the newspaper is unrestricted.

Related topics

related topics

Related topics are other users’ saved tags, which may help you continue your own research. Our developers are still working on this section of the page to bring you more links in the future.

Try out our title pages here!


The Crown

Posted on November 10th, 2016 by BNA

Since its release on 4 November, Netflix’s new series The Crown mirrors true life events found through the pages of the British Newspaper Archive. You can follow the real life drama through contemporary newspapers from the death of King George VI and the coronation of the young Queen Elizabeth to the political intrigues of the day. The Crown chronicles the lives of the royal family and the Queen’s accession to the throne.

The Independent has called the series ‘sumptuous but empty, Netflix’s latest fails its queen’. The Telegraph found that The Crown ‘humanised the royal family in a way that has never been seen before’. Whatever your opinion on how the show depicts the royal family, you cannot deny that it was a huge undertaking. The Crown is the most expensive television series to date. Queen Elizabeth is played by Claire Foy, with Matt Smith at her side as Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Also joining the pair is the talented John Lithgow as Winston Churchill. It is hard not to be impressed with Lithgow’s transformation into the famous prime minister.

Elizabeth and Philip

Illustrated London News, Saturday 16 February 1952

The series begins with the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Five years later, due to his failing health, King George VI requested that the couple embark on a royal tour of the Commonwealth in his stead. Through the newspapers on the British Newspaper Archive, you can follow their tour in Africa. The Portsmouth Evening News from Friday 1 February 1952, only days before King George VI’s death, reported that ‘Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh stepped into the blazing African sunshine to-day to receive a Royal welcome at Nairobi from 400 African chiefs, resplendent in their robes and leopard-skins’. The London Illustrated Times published photographs of the treetop hotel where Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh stayed while in Kenya.

Tree top hotel

Illustrated London News, Saturday 2 February 1952

The tour was cut short with the death of the King and the couple’s need to return to London. In The Bucks Herald from 8 February 1952, you can view one of the last pictures taken of the late King from a visit to Drury Lane Theatre during a farewell party for the Princess.

The Buck Herald - 8 Feb 1952 Death of King, New Queen

Bucks Herald, Friday 8 February 1952

As the series continues, the young Queen Elizabeth is to take the throne, and the newly elected Winston Churchill is battling unrest within his cabinet. One historical moment featured in the episode ‘Act of God’ is the Great Smog of London, which lasted from 5 to 9 December 1952. Netflix did not overestimate the effects of those days of fog from air pollution in the city particularly from the use of coal. The fog in the city was thick and caused visibility to be little or none existent. In this article from The Northern Whig, on the fourth day of the fog, crimes such as burglaries and street robberies were on the rise.

London fog crime rise The Northern Whig 9 Dec 1952

Northern Whig, Monday 8 December 1952

Also, The Northern Whig reported that one labourer was killed and two others injured after being struck by a light engine ‘when visibility was restricted to about a yard’. The terrible effects of the Great Smog lead to the passing of the Clean Air Act of 1956.

As you continue watching the series, all of the events and political happenings can be followed through the newspapers, including the scandal of Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend and, of course, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. The papers also explain how others celebrated the coronation with advertisements of teas and parties, as well as special announcements for coronation day births. You can also find special ‘coronation editions’ of newspapers like this edition from The Bucks Herald.

Coronation of the queen

Bucks Herald, Friday 5 June 1953

Continue to explore more than 16 million pages from 695 titles on the British Newspaper Archive and let us know what you have discovered.

Search the newspapers