Hello Cruel World
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
The first of the "Lost Days" of 1752 (UK)
‘Give us back our eleven days!’ So rang out the rioters’ cry in 1752, when by Act of Parliament the day after September 2 was decreed to be September 14. For good measure, the Act also changed New Year’s Day from March 25 to January 1.
The reason for dropping the eleven days was simple. England had been using the Julian calendar (named after Julius Caesar, its originator) of five months of thirty days and six months of 31 days, with February having 28, but 29 in leap years, every third year in olden times.
The Julian calendar was only eleven minutes a year too long, but over the years those minutes mounted up. By 1582 it meant that church festivals were ten days out of step. So Pope Gregory XIII decided that ten days must be dropped from that year.
Most Catholic countries did so straight away. But Protestant lands were reluctant, smelling some Popish plot. England was the last European country to change to the Gregorian calendar. Even the Scots had succumbed in 1600, although the reformer John Knox went so far as to send one Michael Scott to Rome to see if he could find the lost days.
In England the change was met with the fierce antagonism of ignorance and prejudice. The death of James Bradley, the Astronomer Royal, who had worked out the calculations for the Bill in Parliament, was attributed to his having interfered with the dates of saints’ festivals.
A letter to the Sussex Weekly Advertiser reported a conversation between two farmers at market. The change in dating was officially described as from ‘Old Style’ to ‘New Style’. For the life of them, the farmers could not see why stiles came into it at all. Only one stile they knew of needed renewing.
It was Lord Chesterfield who bravely brought in the Bill. He was well aware of the great inconvenience the old calendar caused merchants, statesmen, and anyone else with overseas connections. He wrote to his son about the problem he was facing.
‘I consulted the best lawyers and the most skilled astronomers and we cooked up a Bill. It had to be composed of law jargon and astronomical calculations, to both of which I am an utter stranger. But it was absolutely necessary to make the House of Lords think that I knew something of the matter – and also make them think that they knew something of it themselves (which they do not). So I gave them only an historical account of calendars, amusing them now and again with little episodes.’
He got his Bill through. But most people never forgave him. ‘Give us back our eleven days!’ Only a few missed birthdays that year. But virtually the whole country felt robbed of eleven days of life. Little wonder there were riots.
Comments: Post a Comment
This is my blogchalk:
Australia, New South Wales, Sydney, English, photography, reading, natural history, land use, town planning, sustainability.