Tim Berners-Lee and the Invention of the Internet for Kids

How are you listening to this podcast today? On a computer, a cell phone, or a smart home device like Alexa? Whatever device you’re using, it connects to the internet. The internet is central to so many things we do today, but have you ever wondered what exactly it is, or how it got to be what it is today? In this episode, you’re going to find out!

Our story begins in 1955 in London England with the birth of Tim Berners-Lee. Both of Tim’s parents were scientists who helped build one of the first computers in the 1950s, the Ferranti Mark 1. Tim enjoyed playing with model railroads as a child, and he learned a lot about electronics from this hobby. He went on to study physics at the University of Oxford in England, where he continued to tinker with electronics in his spare time, building a computer inside an old TV. He graduated with a degree in physics. 

Tim worked as a programmer for many years after graduating, and learned about many technologies along the way. Eventually, he got a job working at CERN, a European nuclear research agency. At CERN, Tim’s first job was to help people communicate over computer networks and use data stored on them in order to do their jobs. But Tim was frustrated to find that all these computers worked in different ways, so it was difficult to get them to talk to one another. Tim wanted to make it easier for people to communicate and work together using these computer networks. 

In the early 1990s, Tim Berners-Lee helped to invent not one, not two, but three key, related technologies that helped the internet become more widely available. He developed the “www” or World Wide Web system (you may have noticed this in website addresses); HTML, or HyperText Markup Language; and the first web browser. 

We’ll talk about each of these in more detail later, but before that, I should go over a few basic things about how the internet works. The internet actually existed before Tim Berners-Lee’s contributions. It’s just a name for a system of computers that are connected to each other — a network. Computers on a network can send and receive messages to and from other computers on the network, or to other networks There are two main types of computers that you need to know about to understand the internet: servers and clients. Servers store information like email or documents, and send or “serve” that information to clients when they request it. Clients are the computers that you and I use to go online. 

The details of this can get a little confusing, but Tim Berners Lee himself actually has a good way of describing the process. He compares it to a mail system. Say you drop a letter in the mailbox. Your letter is like the information you’re sending over the internet. The workers in the post office, similar to a server, look at the address on the letter, and decide where to send it next. That letter might go through a half dozen or more post offices on its way to your house, getting a little closer to you with each one. Eventually, the mail carrier drops it in your mailbox, which is like the client computer.  Unlike with paper mail, all this happens in the blink of an eye on the internet, although in the early days, it could take a bit longer.

Actually, in the early days of the internet, there were no webpages at all. The internet was mostly a tool for scientists to communicate with each other, and it was entirely text-based – no photographs, videos, or music. There were various computer networks in the early days. One of the first was called Arpanet, and it was created by the United States government. It had just four computers on it at first, all of them at universities or government research facilities.  These researchers used very basic tools like File Transfer Protocol to share documents, or simple email systems. 

Internet access expanded to the general public in the 1980s, but it was still far from the internet we know today. There were no viral tik tok dances, cat memes or Wikipedia. It was still used as a communication tool for people with technical knowledge. The systems they used were mostly text-based, meaning they had no graphics.

But Tim Berners-Lee and his three inventions would change everything. The early 1990s were a turning point in the development of the internet, the time when the web really began to look something like what we know today. 

Tim developed the first invention with his colleague at CERN, Robert Cailliau. The World Wide Web, or WWW, is the system used by servers — those computers where your websites are stored — to find documents on the internet. What I’m calling a “document” in this case might be a webpage, a photo, or a music or video file. In the WWW system, every document on the web has a Universal Resource Locator, or URL. That may sound like fancy techno-babble, but I’m sure you’ve seen one. It’s a web address, like www.bedtimehistorystories.com. These addresses can be used by anyone to link to any page on the internet, and they’re usually pretty easy to remember. The very first world wide web server was actually Tim’s work computer at CERN!

HTML is short for HyperText Markup Language, and it’s a computer language used to encode or “mark-up” documents so that a web browser can read and display them in a way that is easy for people to read and understand. HTML tags mark where specific elements of a document are. There are HTML tags for paragraphs, images, links, and most of the other things you would see on a webpage.  

Of course, in order to be useful for displaying web pages, HTML needed a program designed to read and display it. Tim also invented the first program to read and display HTML documents, which he called a browser. Today, there are dozens of browsers, like Chrome, Edge, and Safari, but the first one was called World Wide Web. Since CERN was not interested in paying people to develop web browsers beyond this, Tim encouraged the growing online community of web developers to volunteer their time to create a better browser. In 1993, the Mosaic browser was released by a team at the University of Illinois. Since then, this model of using volunteers from across the world has helped create many important web technologies and products. 

Finally, the managers at CERN made a decision that turned out to be very important for the future of the web: They decided to make Tim’s inventions open standards, meaning anyone could use them. This meant that people around the world could set up their own web servers and create pages using HTML, and they could link to any other webpage on the internet. Likewise, anyone in the world who had a computer and an internet connection could use a browser to view those pages. You didn’t have to be a computer scientist, or an academic, or even know what a server is. As a result, today there are:

  • Almost 2 billion websites on the internet
  • Almost 5 billion internet users
  • Around 7 billion Google searches per day
  • Around 7 billion YouTube videos viewed per day and…
  • Thousands of podcasts you can listen to at any time!

Tim Berners Lee saw a system–the early internet–that had a lot of potential, and came up with ways to improve it and make it vastly more useful for people all over the world. He has won many awards for his achievements: he was knighted by the queen of England in 2013, and won a prestigious computing prize called the Turing Award. He was the key force behind the modern internet, but he also made sure that anyone with the right skills could improve the systems he developed, which is what allowed the world wide web to explode in popularity and accessibility. He has continued to work throughout his life to keep the internet a free and open system that anyone can access.

Tim is a great example of someone who was curious and used his skills to design things that would be useful to other people. He liked to tinker, which means try out new things and play around with them, until they become a useful invention. And when he did design something that was useful he didn’t keep it to himself. He found a way that people all over the world could benefit from it. Considering others is important to do in all of our actions.

We hope you enjoyed this episode about the Invention of the Internet and Tim Berners Lee and be sure to tune in next Monday for a new episode.

Nancy Wake Story for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are a soldier flying in a plane high above the ocean. Outside you hear the plane’s propellers turning and strong winds rushing past the windows. It is the middle of the night and down below the ocean is dark and cold. Sitting around you are other soldiers, men and women with dark clothes and large backpacks. They look nervous and you feel nervous too. You check your gun and tighten a parachute which is also on your back. 

The year is 1944 and you are in the middle of World War 2. Nazi Germany has invaded France. France’s allies England and the United States and other countries are working to help France and many other countries be free again. If the battle can be won in France there might be a chance to beat the Nazis and make the world a safe place again. You look around at the other soldiers, but remember you and the others here are no ordinary soldiers. You are part of England’s Special Operations Executive, commandos which are a combination of a soldier and a spy. You have trained many months to be a commando and it’s finally your chance to help the people of France. 

“Everyone ready?” a voice calls from the back of the plane. You look out the window and see that you are above land now. This is France. You and the other soldiers stand up and walk toward the back of the plane. In the front you see one of the most famous commandos — a woman named Nancy Wake. The back doors to the plane open. You watch as Nancy walks to the back of the plane and jumps out into the cold night. Soon you jump out, too, and are are falling down, down toward the ground.  At the right moment you pull your parachute and are yanked up into the sky. You look across the French countryside and float downward until your boots hit the ground and you roll, then hurriedly wrap up your parachute. 

Nancy Wake and the other commandos are running low across a grassy field to the cover of trees. Someone whispers that a German patrol is nearby. You quietly hurry on until you are hidden deep in the woods. Everyone huddles together and pulls out their backpacks. You see that Nancy is safe and are glad to have such a brave woman leading your team. You know with her help you can accomplish your dangerous and very important mission. 

Nancy Wake was born in Wellington, New Zealand. A couple years later her family moved to Australia. There she went to school until the age of 16 when she left home and found a job as a nurse. Working as a nurse, she was able to save some money and with the help of an aunt, was bought a plane ticket to New York City. There she learned how to become a journalist. A journalist is someone who writes stories for the newspaper. To Nancy being a journalist was an adventure. She loved to travel and learn about new people and places. One of the places she visited was Austria. While she was in Austria a powerful leader named Adolf Hitler had become very powerful. Hitler’s country of Germany was nearby Austria. In Austria Hitler’s followers, the Nazis, were hurting people they did not like, such as the Jews. When Nancy saw how horribly the Nazis treated these people, she realized Hitler was very dangerous.

Nancy moved to Paris, France one of her favorite places in the world. She loved the city and the people and eventually married a Frenchman named Henri Edmond Fiocca. While Nancy was living in France, Hitler’s army invaded the country. Hitler wanted to control France, but Nancy did everything to try and stop him. She joined a group called The Resistance. She helped soldiers escape France and sent secret messages to help The Resistance. Nancy was very careful, so for a long time the Nazis didn’t know she was a spy. She was very sneaky and for this reason the Nazis called her “The White Mouse.” Her job was very dangerous, but Nancy knew that fighting against the invaders was the right thing to do, so she did it anyway. The Nazis wanted to catch Nancy so badly that they offered 5 million French dollars to anyone who would turn her in. 

Soon it was too dangerous for Nancy to stay in France, so she snuck out of the country, hiding in the back of a coal truck, just before the Nazis caught her. From France she went to Spain and then to England, which was a country safe from the Nazis. Nancy could have lived a safe life in England far from her enemies, but she knew she needed to keep fighting to keep the world free. In England Nancy joined England’s spy group called the Special Operations Executive. There Nancy trained to be a soldier and a spy, also known as a commando. She learned to shoot a gun, use a radio, and be sneaky, which she was already pretty good at. But Nancy worked very hard and tried to be very cheerful. When other soldiers were sad she made funny jokes and cheered them up. The other soldiers like to be around Nancy. 

Once Nancy and the other soldiers were trained, a plane flew them across the ocean to France where they jumped out and parachuted down to the ground. Many Nazis were in France so they were careful and spent much of the time in hiding. There Nancy and the other soldiers helped The Resistance. They gave them guns and other supplies, blew up bridges, recruited more people to the Resistance. Once they even attacked a Nazi base. Nancy and the other commandos weren’t afraid to complete dangerous missions to help free the people of France.

To keep in touch with England the commandos used radio and special codes. One night the codes were destroyed by the enemy and the next closest radio station was very far away. Many would have given up, but Nancy decided she could ride a bike to the other radio. So she jumped on her bike and rode almost 200 miles. She had to pass many Nazis along the way, so it was a very dangerous journey, but Nancy was brave and believed in her cause. After delivering the message to be sent, Nancy got back on her bike and rode all the way back to her team.

While Nancy and the other commandos were helping The Resistance, the Allied Armies fought Hitler’s army on the battlefield until chasing them out of France. Nancy was excited to see France free again and proud to have been one of many to make it happen. 

After the war Nancy received many medals for her bravery. Later she wrote a book about her life and adventures during the war and called it “The White Mouse.” Nancy moved into a hotel in France where the owners and others helped take care of her, because of all she had done to help their country. Nancy Wake’s bravery inspired many women and men for years to come. 

Like Nancy, you can do things even when you’re not sure how they’ll turn out. Sometimes we only want to do the things we know about — this is called staying inside our comfort zone. But it’s also good for us to get outside of our comfort zone and try new things like Nancy did. We can stand up for what we believe even when it might be scary. If you see someone picking on someone else, you can tell them this is wrong and stand up for them. You might wonder if you can be as brave as Nancy, but remember she was once a child just like you. 

History of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots for Kids

Imagine you live in old Scotland.  The year is 1550.  You are an 5 year old child, but you are already a queen.  You walk through your castle, which is an old stone building, wearing a long dress to keep warm because the stone castle is cold in the winter.  You follow your mother, who takes care of you and helps teach you how to act like a royal.  She tells you how to act so that others will respect you as a leader.  You know in your heart that you will be an adult one day and then you will be fully in charge.  But for now, you listen to your mother and follow what she tells you about your duties.  You are also scared because there is a tense feeling in the air.  You are worried for your safety, as is your mom.  You are Mary, Queen of Scots.

Mary, Queen of Scots, was also known as Mary Stuart.  She was born in the mid-1500s and was the daughter of the king of Scotland, who died just days after she was born. 

When Mary was born, the time period in Europe was known as the “Middle Ages” or “Medieval Times”.  It was a time when people did not know a lot about science and many people were very religious.  It was also a time when there was a lot of fighting amongst different people to be kings or rulers of different countries and about the role that religion should play in people’s lives.  

Mary was born in December 1542 at a palace in West Lothian, Scotland.  Her father was King James the 5th of Scotland and her mother’s name was Mary of Guise.  Baby Mary was only six days old when her father died, making her the new queen of Scotland. You may have heard of a king that lived around this time, King Henry the 8th.  He was a relative of Mary Stuart.  In fact he was her great uncle.  

Because Mary was only a baby when she became queen of Scotland, her great-uncle, Henry the 8th, said that he would act as ruler in her place until Mary was old enough to take on the role. At the time, Henry the 8th was the king of England.  This made people suspicious that King Henry the 8th just wanted to take over power as leader of Scotland too.  At the time, England and Scotland were two separate countries with two separate leaders. 

One of the people who did not want to see King Henry the 8th in control of Scotland even temporarily, or for a short period of time, was Mary’s mother. Instead she said that she would act as ruler in baby Mary’s place until she was old enough to lead the country herself. 

The rejection of King Henry the 8th as ruler made him angry.  He tried in a different way to gain control of Scotland by requesting that baby Mary be betrothed to his son, Prince Edward of England. Betrothed means to promise that two young people will get married to each other when they are older.  This was something that was often done in the old days before people married for love.  It was often done as an attempt to try to connect rich families to each other. 

Unfortunately for King Henry the 8th, many Scottish people did not want Prince Edward of England to be able to marry baby Mary when she grew up.  They were worried about the power that this would give England over their country, Scotland.  They were also worried about what that would mean for their main religion, Catholicism, since Prince Edward and his family had split from the Catholic Church and were now Protestants.

King Henry the 8th was very angry about the rejection of his son as the future husband of baby Mary.  So he ordered that his English army attack Scotland.

To protect little Mary from these attacks and possible death, Mary was sent to living France with the royal family.   

Mary was 5 years old when she went to live with the French royal family, including the French King named Henry the 2nd and his wife, Catherine de Medicis. 

Mary grew up in a very luxurious palace, which means that it was fancy and had everything that a child of the time could want.  Instead of being betrothed to Prince Edward of England, Mary’s family instead decided to promise, or betroth, her to the French Prince, Francis the 2nd, who was also a young child like her when she first came to live in France.  Mary and Francis grew up as friends in the French palace. 

Mary had a great childhood.  She loved living in the palace and learned to speak French.  When Mary was 16 years old, in 1558, she and Prince Francis got married. One year later, Prince Francis became king when his father died.  His new title was King Francis the 2nd of France.  This made Mary both the queen of Scotland and France’s queen consort, or wife of the king. 

Mary also had a strong claim to the English throne, meaning that many believed that she was the real queen of England.  However, Mary never officially became queen of England.  In November 1558, her cousin Elizabeth the 1st was crowned the queen of England.  She was always concerned about Mary and the fact that some people thought she was the real queen of England. 

Unfortunately this role didn’t last long. Francis developed an ear infection about a year after he became king and because they don’t have the medicine they do today, he passed away. This left Mary as a widow at only 18 years old as well. 

After Francis’s death, Mary decided to return to Scotland.  She was now fully an adult and it felt safer for her to return and live in her home country.  However, things were different in Scotland since she had last lived there.  During the time she was away, her mom had become very close with a man named John Knox.  He had become powerful by using their friendship to gain power in the Scottish royal family.  And he had a lot of influence, or control over others. 

One of the things that John Knox had done was convinced her mom to change the official religion of Scotland from Catholicism to Protestantism. But Mary had grown up in France where she was raised as a Catholic.  Mary decided to be a ruler that created a feeling of religious tolerance in Scotland.  This means that she told her people that they should all try to accept each others’ differences and live together in peace even though they had different religions.

In 1565, when Mary was 23, she married again, this time to Henry Stewart, Earl of Darnley [her cousin].  Some people were mad about their marriage, including Mary’s cousin Elizabeth Tudor. Elizabeth was the daughter of King Henry the 8th and she was the acting queen of England.

Not long after they got married for the second time, her husband started to become obsessed with power.  Mary became pregnant with her first child and was happy to know she would have a baby soon.  However, she became worried about her husband’s ruthless behaviour.  Ruthless means brutal and mean. 

But Mary tried to carry on, believing he would be the man that she hoped he was.  Henry started to get meaner to people who were in his way or against him.  Marydecided that she no longer wanted to be married to Henry.  But she was pregnant and soon she gave birth to her first son, named James, who later became James the 4th of Scotland and James the 1st of England.

Shortly after baby James was born, Henry and his friends went out on a hunting trip to the fields outside of Edinburgh, a large city and capital of Scotland.  While he was out on the trip, there was a mysterious explosion that struck, killing Henry.  After the explosion was investigated, people thought that the explosion was caused by a person.  Some suspected that it may have been done on Mary’s orders or by her and her friend James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell.  But no one ever really knew for sure. 

Only three months later, Mary got married again.  This time, her husband turned out to be James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell.  Many people were angry about their marriage.  They thought that James Hepburn was only interested in becoming king.  

They were also mad at Mary for getting married again so quickly.  And people started to suspect that maybe she was involved in her second husband, Henry’s, death.  As a result of people’s anger and suspicion, or distrust, James Hepburn, Mary’s third husband went into exile.  This meant that he was banished from the castle and country and not allowed to live there anymore, so he went to live in a hidden place.

The people told Mary that they know longer wanted her to be queen of Scotland.  She decided to step down and instead, her baby son James became king.  He was barely one year old.

Mary was arrested shortly after this as well and she was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle. Less than one year later, Mary escaped from Lochleven Castle. She escaped to England, where she asked her cousin, queen Elizabeth for her help and protection.  Instead of helping her, however, queen Elizabeth was still threatened by queen Mary.  She had Mary arrested and put into captivity for the next 18 years.  Captivity means that he was imprisoned and couldn’t leave the castle.

Mary was imprisoned, but she wasn’t in a jail cell.  Instead she lived inside the castle area and had an okay life, although she could never leave. Elizabeth tried to treat her cousin somewhat well, even though she wouldn’t let her go.  

In 1586, when queen Mary was 43 years old, she started writing letters with someone who said they would help Mary escape. The same person was plotting to kill Elizabeth, the Queen of England. The letters were found and Mary was brought to trial and was found guilty of plotting against the queen which was a major crime.  She was sentenced to death for what she had done. After she passed away, Mary’s son James became King James in 1587.  

Even now, hundreds of years after Mary died, many people continue to be very interested in her life.  There are many movies made about her.  While her real name is Mary Stuart, she is usually known as Mary, Queen of Scots.  

We can learn a lot from Mary’s life, including resilience, duty and tolerance.  And we can also learn a lot from this period of time, both good and bad.  For example, we can admire the things that Mary did, becoming queen at a very young age and learning to become a strong ruler.  And persisting through three marriages and the anger of people, as well as imprisonment for 18 years. 

We can also see that the way that people fought for power back then caused problems.  People used violence and hurt each other to get what they wanted.  We can feel lucky that our society has progressed since then and that we have learned to be more peaceful.

History of Charlemagne for Kids

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a king? Would it be an easy life for a hard one? Would you just do whatever you please, or would you work to make your kingdom a better place for the people living in it? Today we’re going to learn about Charlemagne, one of the most powerful kings of Europe. 

Charlemagne was born around the year 742 C.E. He lived during what is known as medieval times. Think of castles and knights and ladies. That is the medieval times. Charlemagne was a Frank. The Franks were a Germanic people who lived in what is now known as Belgium, France, Luxemborg, the Netherlands and Germany. The Franks became very powerful at the time the Roman Empire was losing power.  France is named after the Franks. 

Charlemagne’s father was Pepin the Short who was the king of the Franks. Pepin led the Franks in war and won many battles. His kingdom grew as he won battles for his people. This made him and his family very powerful. Very little is known about Charlemagne’s childhood to this day, but it is known that he grew tall and strong, he had light hair, and was good at learning languages. He became a powerful warrior and later in battle carried a large sword with a gold hilt, which he named Jway-uze.

When Charlemagne’s father died in 768, his kingdom was divided between Charlemagne and his brother, Carloman, who didn’t get along very well. But once his brother died, Charlemagne became the only ruler of the kingdom. He was also known as Charles the Great, which is what Charlemagne translates to. 

As king, Charlemagne’s main goal was to unite all of the people of his kingdom under one rule and one religion, which was Christianity. Charlemagne was a skilled military leader and used his talents and his army to bring other people under his rule. Over the years he fought in 53 military campaigns to enlarge his kingdom. The people he fought included the Avars (what is now Austria and Hungary), the Lombards (what is now Italy) and Bavaria, along with other peoples. One of his most difficult opponents were the Saxons, the people of what is now Germany. They wanted to be free and control their own lands, not be part of Charlemagne’s kingdom. They resisted him fiercely, but Charlemagne was determined to bring them under his rule, even though it required a great deal of violence and cruelty. Charlemagne was known for doing whatever it took to reach his goals of growing his kingdom. Even if it meant hurting others. But whenever Charlemagne conquered the Saxons in one place, they’d start fighting him in another place. It took him over 30 years to finally bring the Saxon’s under his rule, they were a very independence people. Because Charlemagne was Christian, anyone forced into his kingdom was required to adopt the his religion as well. Charlemagne also fought very hard to take control of Italy, which finally ended in 777 C.E.

Charlemagne had a very large family! It was very important to him that his children became educated. At the time only monks knew how to read and write, but Charlemagne believe it was important for kings and their families to be educated. This was very out of the ordinary for his day. He loved books and often had someone read to him while he was eating. Even though he was a kind and very rich, he dressed very simply and ate simple food. He believed this made him stronger. He also saw how many kings became rich and then became lazy, spending all of their time enjoying their money, good food, big castles, and nice clothes. Instead, Charlemagne focused on staying strong and smart. He built libraries in his homes and stayed active. He also made sure his children didn’t grow lazy with all of their wealth. He hired tutors to make sure his many children learned how to read and studied good books. 

Charlemagne once said to his sons, “You think because you are rich and are the sons of the great men of my kingdom that your birth and wealth will protect you in my favor. I will let you know that you stand in need of learning more than those who are poor and dependent. You think only of your pleasures and of your dress and play, but I attach no importance to your wealth and to your station, and if you idle your time when you are young you will be worthless when you are old.”

During the time of Charlemagne’s reign, the Christian church based in Rome was concerned about being taken over by its enemies. Because Charlemagne was Christian, he gave much of his money to support the church in Rome. The leader of the church in Rome was called the Pope, and at the time his name was Pope Leo III. In order to create a strong alliance between Rome and Charlemagne, so he could protect them, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans in 800 C.E. on Christmas Day at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This gave people and leaders throughout Rome even greater respect for Charlemagne. 

After taking control of much of Europe, and even though he did it in a very violent way, Charlemagne did a good job at taking care of the lands he had conquered. He allowed people to keep most of their laws and customs and let them rule themselves. Because he believed in education, he had schools built and used his money to pay for teachers. He also pushed for schools to use an alphabet that was the same, so people could communicate better within his big empire. 

He also wanted the economy to be strong in his empire. An economy relates to how people buy and sell things. He worked to have common money used throughout his empire, to make it easier for people to buy and sell goods. He ordered the construction of a great canal, the Fossa Carolina, to connect the Rhine and Danube Rivers. A canal is a man-made river. The uniting of these lands and the result of his reforms are called the Carolingian Renaissance. He also became known as the “Father of Europe.”

Charlemagne often moved throughout his empire, living in different lands in order to help govern them and push his reforms. He was also known to be very athletic. He liked hunting, horseback riding, and swimming. 

Because of his activity, Charlemagne was known to be very healthy most of his life, but during the last four years he had fevers and started to limp. In 813, he crowned his son Louis the Pious as a co-emperor. In 814 when Charlemagne died Louis became the emperor. He was buried in a cathedral in Aachen, ending a reign of more than 40 years. It is incredible to think of all that was accomplished during his reign. 

Like many people in history, Charlemagne’s character is a complicated one. Like many military leaders like Julius Caesar or Napolean, he was very driven by power to conquer all of Europe. This led him to do many terrible things and attack people who just wanted to be left alone. When Charlemagne did finally conquer, he did his best to make his kingdom a good one.

Marquis de Lafayette For Kids

Our story begins on September 6, 1757 when a young boy was born to the Lafayette Family in Chavaniac (Shevinyik), France. His parents named him Marie-Joseph-Paul-Roch-Gilbert du Motier! Can you imagine having a name that long! Not only did he start off with a big name, but also a very big fortune. He was born into a long line of French nobles, which means the people who ruled France and were very wealthy. He even inherited a castle at birth! The Lafayette Family had lived in France for many years and had distinguished themselves as brave soldiers. One of his ancestors fought alongside the brave woman soldier, Joan of Arc. Another ancestor traveled East and fought during the Crusades. His grandfather was a famed Musketeer and one of King Louis XV’s bodyguards. Also, when Lafayette was very young, he lost his father in a battle. So not only did he inherit much wealth and property, but also a famous name to live up to.

Although he had a long name he later became known as Lafayette, so we’ll use this name for the rest of our story. After losing his father, Lafayette’s mother moved to Paris and left him to be raised by his grandmother. Later, when he was 11, he moved to Paris with his mother to attend school. There he decided to be a soldier like his father and the many generations of Lafayette’s before him. He attended a school to learn to be a Musketeer, one of the king’s famous bodyguards. He graduated and did this for a time while still in school. 

When Lafayette was 14, his family introduced him to a young woman named Adrienne Marie Francois. She was only 12, but they spent time with each other and eventually fell in love. Later, they were married when Lafayette was 16 and she was 14. They ended up being a good match and stayed together for the rest of their lives.

By 1775, Lafayette was a Luitenant in the French Army and watched with interest what was going on across the ocean in the American Colonies. There, the British ruled the colonies but many of the Americans wanted to break free and become their own country. This struggle and war later became known as the American Revolution. Lafayette was French and the French didn’t get along with the British. They had fought against each other in many wars, include the Seven Years War or French and Indian War in America. Lafayette began to think about how he might help the American’s fight for liberty and get back at his enemies, the British. His father had also died in a battle against the British. 

In 1776 the French decided to help the Americans fight the British by sending soldiers and weapons. Lafayette volunteered to go with them. He was only 18 at the time, but his heart was set on going. When the British heard the French decided to help, they threatened to declare war against France, too. This caused France to change its position, but Lafayette had already made up his mind to go. His father-in-law, who was also his commanding officer, threatened to arrest him if he tried to leave to America. Lafayette hid from him and decided to find a way to escape to America, anyway. He was determined to join their cause and nothing would stop him. 

Lafayette’s first problem was America was across the ocean and he didn’t have a ship. He decided to use his great wealth to buy one. Then, he and the his friends boarded his ship and sailed for 2 months to America.

In Philadephia, Lafayette met General George Washington of America’s Continental Army. They ate dinner together and became good friends right away. Lafayette joined George Washington’s staff and in many ways became the father he never had. 

In September 1777, Lafayette fought in his first battle, The Battle of Brandywine. While rallying the troops to attack, he was hit in the leg and wounded, but continued to rally the soldiers to hold off the British advances.

Later that year after he recovered, he fought in another battle and defeated the British in Gloucester. During that same winter, he stayed with George Washington at Valley Forge. At Valley Forge they waited out a very harsh winter. Many soldiers suffered and were lost, but Washington and Lafayette and others were able to encourage the troops and keep them from leaving to continue the fight against the British.

Lafayette next fought in battles at Barren Hill, Monmouth, and Rhode Island, and was successful in his attacks and given a sword for his bravery and skill in battle. By this time, the French government now planned to help the Americans and Lafayette sailed a ship back to France to help get more soldiers and weapons to help.

In France, Lafayette was praised as a hero for fighting in America. He was also happy to see his wife and children again. While he was there she gave birth to a boy. They named him George Washington Lafayette! There, Lafayette also met Benjamin Franklin and worked with him and the French army to find enough soldiers and weapons to take back to America. Then, he sailed back to America to continue the fight.

In America, he found George Washington and the Continental Army struggling. They had lost battles and were worried they wouldn’t win the war. Washington was happy to see Lafayette and gave him command over troops as they continued the fight. Battles were won and lost and Lafayette continued to write letters to France urging them to send more soldiers and weapons. 

The Battle of Yorktown was one of the major battles in the American war for Independence. There, Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton and their troops faced off against the British general Cornwallis. Ships and soldiers from France also joined the battle. Muskets and cannons were fired from both sides. Smoke and gunfire filled the air. The battle was very intense and many soldiers were lost. In the final moments of the battle, Lafayette and Hamilton charged the British defenses and fought with swords in hand-to-hand combat until the Americans won the battle and General Cornwallis surrendered. The war wasn’t completely over yet, but the final major land battle had been won and America was on its way to freedom as a nation. 

After the war, the Marquis de Lafayette returned to France and was welcomed as a hero for his bravery. There, he joined the abolitionists in their struggle against slavery. He believed all people should be treated equal, regardless of the color of their skin. Lafayette even wrote a letter to George Washington, encouraging him to liberate his slaves.

Lafeyette spent the rest of his life in France dealing with its own revolution, but being an noble, he worked to find ways that the common people and the monarchy, the king, could work toward a better country. He lived through the French Revolution and later the rule of the general and dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte. He spent the later part of his life running his farm, far away from city and government life, much like his hero and father figure, George Washington. 

When Lafeyette was 67, he made his final visit to the United States. There he visited the grave of George Washington and spent time with Thomas Jefferson who was now 81, near the end of his life. His spoke to congress and once again toured the states where he was welcome as a hero. While at Bunker Hill, one of the battle sites of the War of Independence, he asked his son to gather up a scoop of dirt. 

After returning to France, in 1834, Lafayette passed away and was buried using some of the dirt he had collected at Bunker Hill.

Spend some time thinking about what it might have been like to be Lafayette. He was born with much wealth and privilege. He could have just stayed in France and enjoyed is money, but during the War for Independence, he went against the wishes of his family and government and used his own money to travel to the colonies and help in their fight for freedom. Think about what it means to be brave? Can you think of a time when you had to be brave? It’s not always easy. But often when we take the leap and do something that’s not easy, we grow and become stronger. That’s one of the only ways to become stronger, to do hard things that require bravery. I believe you can do hard things! I believe that you can be brave!

History of Christmas Carols For Kids

“We wish you a Merry Christmas, We wish you a Merry Christmas, We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”

Have you heard this song before?  It’s an example of a Christmas carol that we often hear on the radio and in homes around America and the world this time of year. Christmas carols are familiar tunes that bring joy and Christmas spirit during the winter.  But did you know that many famous Christmas carols have very un-Christmassy beginnings?

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but at the time they were not Christmas Carols.  They were songs that were sung to celebrate the Winter Solstice celebrations.  The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and usually falls on Dec 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere.  The Winter Solstice was commonly celebrated in Europe hundreds of years ago before Christianity spread throughout Europe. These people held religious beliefs that centered on nature and the natural world. They celebrated the Winter Solstice with songs that celebrated the turning of the season and the longer, brighter days ahead. 

When Christianity spread throughout Europe, these carols began to change and became a mix of old songs with new Christian themes. Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus around the same timing as the Winter Solstice, so over time the winter celebrations in Europe came to celebrate both. Eventually old pagan carols were combined with new song lyrics celebrating the birth of Jesus. 

The tradition of singing songs to celebrate this time of year eventually became part of the winter church services celebrated by Christians.  In the year 129, a Roman Bishop said that a song called “Angel’s Hymn” should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome.  Another famous early Christmas song written for the Greek Orthodox Church in 760 was also sung at a Christmas service.  Soon after, many composers all over Europe started to write “Christmas Carols.”

At first, these new Christmas songs were not very popular, as they were all written and sung in Latin.  Latin was the language of the Romans and was used in church services, but it was a language that most regular people throughout Europe could not understand. During the Middle Ages, in the 1200s, Romans had been pushed back from their  positions of power throughout Europe and common people became less interested in Roman traditions.  Common European people stopped celebrating Christmas in church altogether and the tradition of singing songs to celebrate Christmas started to die out. 

This changed in 1223, when St. Francis of Assisi, a famous Italian Catholic preacher, started something new in Italy called a “Nativity Play”.  The play was performed in church at Christmas time and the people in the play sang songs or “canticles” that told the story of the birth of Jesus. The choruses of these new carols were sung in Latin, but St. Francis thought that the songs should be sung in the language that the people watching the play could understand and join in, so the songs’ versus were translated into a variety of European languages.  The new carols became popular and spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries. 

The earliest carol like this was written in 1410.  It was about Mary and Jesus meeting different people in Bethlehem.  Unfortunately, only a small part of the song still exists.  Traveling singers during the Middle Ages, or “Minstrels”, sang these carols as they traveled from town to town for money.  This helped the songs to become common and popular all throughout Europe.

Churches eventually started to hire official carol singers called “Waits” that worked for the church and spread Christian messages by singing these songs in public.  “Waits” were bands of singers led by important local political leaders.  They would go throughout town singing the songs around Christmas time and collecting money for the church.  The groups were called “Waits” because they only sang on Christmas Eve, which was sometimes known as “watchnight” or “waitnight” back then.  The name reflected that the shepherds in the story of Jesus were watching their sheep at night when angels appeared to them.  Watchnight or Waitnight was considered to be when Christmas celebrations would begin in Europe.  

In England, the popularity of Christianity grew from the Middle Ages in the 1200s to the Victorian period in the 1800s.  For over 600 years, English people participated in church services and set up orchestras and choirs.  People enjoyed the music of church services and particularly liked singing Christmas songs, so carols grew in popularity throughout this time.  New carol services were created in Church and became popular at Christmas. So did the custom of singing carols in the streets to spread the message of Christmas and collect money for the church.  

Some of the carols that were written during this time period were songs that were made out of traditional English folk songs with Christmas lyrics added to them.  

In 1880, Edward White Benson, who was a Bishop in the town of Truro in England, noticed that people were not coming to church as much as he felt they should.  In particular, at Christmas, people in Truro liked to celebrate on Christmas eve, but they didn’t come to church.  Instead they would gather in pubs and drink alcohol and dance and sing.  Bishop Benson, decided to try to lure everyone out of the pub and into church for a new Christmas service.  

Truro didn’t have a cathedral, but instead they just held church services in a large shed. Bishop Benson had to really think about how he could make a church service held there interesting enough to get the townspeople to attend.  Bishop Benson and his wife and children all liked to write.  In fact, Bishop Benson is thought to have written the longest diary that was ever written at the time!

Because of his desire to draw people into church and his love of writing, Bishop Benson and his family decided to write some of their own songs celebrating Christmas.  One of the reasons that people loved going to the pubs was because they would sing together there.  They would sing folk songs, or traditional songs passed down from one generation to the next.  And they would also do folk dances.  In fact, this is what the world “carol” meant at the time.  It meant “to dance in a circle. 

Bishop Benson and his family wrote some Christmas songs to be performed in church.  Because some of the songs are combinations of old folk tunes and Christmas traditions or religious images, some Christmas carols can seem kind of strange. For example, have you ever heard the song, “I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing”? The song doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think of the Christmas story.  Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, is a landlocked area.  This means there is no sea there on which ships could sail.  Some versions of the song involve Jesus on Christmas day in the morning.  But other versions involve three pretty girls on New Year’s Day.  It is likely that this song was originally a folk tune sung at pubs in England.  

The new version of Christmas church services became very popular.  People loved to come into church to be part of the singing and celebrating.  And the tradition of singing Christmas carols in church began to spread throughout the country. And Bishop Benson eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury, which is the highest church position in the Church of England.

Let’s take a look at some specific Christmas carols and their history. 

The first is “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

In the 18th and 19th centuries, other people started to collect these folk songs and turn them into new songs. Over time the songs were edited and changed until they became some of the traditional Christmas songs we all know and love today.  For example, the co-founder of Methodism, Charles Wesley, wrote a carol that began:  Hark how all the welkin rings, Glory to the King of Kings, Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”  He put these lyrics to a Mendelsson tune and that is how the carol was sung for over 20 year.  Until another preacher changed the first line to Hark, the herald angels sing, Glory to the new-born King! This is the version most people know today.  The original song was not religious, but it slowly became a song celebrating the Christian story of Jesus’s birth.

Another famous Christmas carol is “Good King Wenceslas.”

While the song sings about a real person, his name was not actually Wenceslas but Vaclav and he was the Duke of Bohemia in the 10th Century.  Vaclav had a difficult childhood.  His dad died when he was young and he was brought up by his mom and a grandma. But the two women fought about what his religion should be. When he grew to be an adult, Vaclav chose to be Christian.  He started doing good for others and in particular, he would give to the poor.  But he would do this secretly at night by leaving things they needed on their doorsteps. He was particularly interested in giving to widows, orphans and people with disabilities. After Vaclav died, he was declared a saint and king by Otto the Great. The song followed 500 years later when an Englishman named John Mason Neale heard a tune he liked and put together the lyrics to the song we now know today.

“Jingle Bells,” is another Christmas carol that did not have a Christmassy start. Jingle Bells, which was written in America, was actually originally written about Thanksgiving.

In modern times, Christmas carols are popular throughout the world.  There are various forms of Christmas songs, including rock tunes and dance songs.  And almost every famous musician puts out an album of Christmas songs, putting their own flare on traditional tunes that everyone knows. 

People in England and other countries still enjoy the tradition of carolling.  In modern times, this tradition sees groups of people go door to door to sing for neighbours and spread Christmas cheer.  Some carolers also collect money for the poor.  

And the tradition of a carol service or nativity play in church is still quite popular.  Many churches around the world hold a special Christmas service in which the story of Jesus’s birth is re-enacted and the church-goers sing Christmas carols together.  If you have never been to one of these services, it is something to try one day.  Singing together in a group can be very fun and you will be part of history watching the service and knowing it’s traditional roots.

What are some of your favourite Christmas carols?  Have you ever thought about where these songs came from?  With an adult’s help, you can research online about the origins of your favourite songs.  Perhaps the song you look at had a different beginning than you realized.  Some Christmas songs are tunes that are written by very famous composers with new lyrics to go with them.  

We hope you enjoy getting into the holiday spirit this December with good music, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or a different holiday depending on where you live and your background.  

Guy Fawkes For Kids

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November!”  This is a famous saying that you may have heard before.  But what does it mean and where did it come from?  Many of us in America have heard of Guy Fawkes and some may even know a little bit about his plot in 1605.  But many of us do not.  In tonight’s episode, we’re going to dive into Guy’s life and learn a bit about what life was like in England in the early 1600s. 

Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in York, England. He was the second of four children born to Edward Fawkes, a lawyer who worked in the English courts, and his wife, Edith. Guy’s family were normal, wealthy people of their time.  They were members of the Church of England, a Protestant church. But Guy’s mother’s family were Catholics and she had grown up in a Catholic house.

Catholicism and Protestantism are different types of Christianity.  In the 1500s, most of England was Catholic and it usually had to do with who was with the King or Queen and what they wanted people to practice.  King Henry VIII declared that England would become a Protestant nation in the 1500s and after that, the government made efforts to get people to stop being Catholic. 

This is the world that Guy grew up in. He had two younger sisters, Anne and Elizabeth, and they were a happy family.  Unfortunately, when Guy was eight years old his father died. Guy and his sisters were then raised by their mom for a number of years on her own.  Eventually their mom remarried.  The mom’s new husband was a Catholic man and as a result, they started to practice Catholicism again. 

Catholicism in England that had been shut down under Henry VIII and continued to be suppressed by his successor Queen Elizabeth I. During her reign, Catholics could not legally celebrate their religious ceremonies or be married according to their own rites. Rites are religious customs or traditions.  Queen Elizabeth commanded that everyone needed to be Protestant and that they had to attend Protestant services, not Catholic services.  If they did not attend Protestant services, they would be fined.

Because Guy Fawkes lived such a long time ago, not many details of his life are known.  He was said to have a pleasant and cheerful personality and was loyal to his friends.  He was also described as growing to become a “tall, powerfully built man, with thick reddish-brown hair, a flowing moustache in the tradition of the time, and a bushy reddish-brown beard”.  Guy was the only son in his family, so according to laws of the time, he inherited the family’s home and land in Clifton in York. The home was cared for by his mother when Guy was still a child. But once Guy became an adult, it passed to him and he lived in it and cared for it for the first few years that he was an adult.

In October 1591, at the age of 21, Guy Fawkes sold his home and land in Clifton in York. He had decided to become a soldier and went to Europe to fight in a war with Spanish Catholics against non-Catholics. He now felt very strongly about his family’s Catholic faith and wanted to help return Catholicism as the main religion in England and throughout Europe. 

Guy lived in Europe for nearly 10 years and fought as a paid soldier for Spanish during this time.  During this time, he changed his name to “Guido” which is a Spanish version of “Guy”. He fought in many battles and eventually became a captain. 

In 1603, Guy talked to the Spanish royalty and tried to convince them that after everything he had done for them, they should now help support a Catholic rebellion in England.  A rebellion is an uprising of people that fight against the government in order to make a change.  In England, the feelings between Catholics and non-Catholics were becoming worse.  Queen Elizabeth had died and King James I was now the new king.  King James continued Elizabeth’s efforts to shut down Catholicism in England. The Spanish King listened to Guy Fawkes request.  However, he decided not to get involved and did not support his rebellion.  

Guy returned to England at age 33 and continued to be angry about what he saw happening to his religion.  Because Catholics were not allowed to practice their religion opening, many met in secret for ceremonies and talked about ways to make changes so that they could live more freely again. One idea that a small group of priests had was to kidnap the new King of England, King James I. This particular plan failed and the priests who were planning this were captured.

But others started plotting something similar.  In May 1604, a group of five men, including Guy Fawkes, met at a hotel in London.  They talked about what they could do to help make Catholicism the main religion in England. One of the men, Robert Catesby, suggested a plan that they blow up the Houses of Parliament with gunpowder.  The Houses of Parliament are a part of government, like Congress in the United States, that make laws.  Eight other men later joined them in the plot, which became known as the “Gunpowder Plot”.  A plot is a plan or a scheme to do something.

The plotters thought that if they blew up Parliament and King James and his son, who would also be there on the opening day, that this would leave only King James’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, to be Queen. Then they would convince Princess Elizabeth to bring Catholicism back to England. 

Guy Fawkes was one of these “plotters”.  He started using the name “Guido” again instead of “Guy”.  He also used another alias, or fake name, “John Johnson”. Using this name John Johnson, Guy Fawkes got a job as the caretaker of a cellar located just below the House of Lords (which is a government group similar to the Senate in America). 

The plotters rented a room in a building near Parliament.  It was unused and filthy, so they considered it an ideal hiding place for the gunpowder that they planned to use to be stored. According to Fawkes, 20 barrels of gunpowder were brought in at first, followed by 16 more. Gunpowder is a black powder used in guns and bombs and explodes when it comes in contact with sparks or flames.

With Guy in this job as caretaker beneath Parliament, the plotters started moving gunpowder from their rented room and stockpiling it in the cellar. The group planned that on November 5, 1605, Guy would light a fuse during the opening of a new session of Parliament. He would then escape by boat and make his way across the River Thames in London to safety on the other side. 

As the date got closer, the plotters got ready to execute their plan.  However, a week and half before their plans were to take place, the plotters were stopped.  On October 26, a letter was sent to the police telling them to wait to start Parliament because there was a plan to blow it up.  The letter was anonymous, which means that it is sent without a name so no one knows who it is from.  To this day, no one knows for sure who wrote the letter.  But the police went to the place beneath Parliament around midnight on November 4.  They found Guy Fawkes waiting there with matches in his pocket and 36 barrels of gunpowder stacked next to him. 

Guy Fawkes was arrested.  Soon after, the police found his co-conspirators and arrested them as well, except for four of them, including Catesby, who died in a shootout with English troops. Guy and his co-conspirators were all found guilty of high treason. Treason means a serious crime against your own country. They were all executed shortly after that, in January 1606. 

Following this plot, the government in England made new laws that made life for Catholics even more strict.  They were not allowed to vote in elections, practice law or serve in the military.  These laws actually stayed in place for over 200 years. 

After the plot was revealed, Londoners learned of what had almost happened and were very happy that the plot had been found out and nothing had been blown up.  They began lighting bonfires.  They were happy that their government and King James had not been bombed.  The government declared November 5 as a day of thanksgiving in England.  This is now known as “Guy Fawkes Day” and is celebrated every year in England and other parts of the world now. 

In today’s celebrations, British people treat Guy Fawkes Day as a time to get together with friends and family, set off fireworks, light bonfires and attend parades.  Some even burn puppets of Guy Fawkes. Children traditionally wheel around their puppets of Guy Fawkes from door to door demanding a “penny for the Guy”, which became a custom similar to Halloween trick-or-treating.  

While the story of Guy Fawkes is a sad and difficult one, there are always things that can be learned from history. What can be learned from Guy Fawkes and the plotters?  He was certainly a man of conviction.  Conviction means confidence and faith.  He wanted to bring a better life for his Catholic people in England.  However, he tried to go about it in a violent way.  The plotters’ plan to blow up parliament was very sad because it involved violence and destruction in order to bring about what they wanted. Violence is not the answer to making the world a better place. Indeed the plot backfired because once it was revealed, it resulted in stricter laws for Catholics, not an easier life like the plotters wanted.  

Sometimes when we hear sad or hard stories in history, it is good to learn from how this story impacted society and the way life is now.  While the story of Guy Fawkes is a sad story, we can see how the plotters plan and the ultimate failure of that plan had major impacts on British culture for years to come. And this is why British people “Remember, remember the fifth of November.”

History of Mona Lisa for Kids

Imagine you are walking through an art gallery.  The walls are tall and beautiful.  It is an elegant place and there are tourists everywhere, studying and looking at artwork.  As you turn the corner into a different room, the crowd grows very thick.  Everyone is crowding around trying to see one particular painting.  As you get close, you see the painting they are all looking at.  It is a portrait of a woman.  She sits facing you and smiles with a slight smirk that is both suspicious and mysterious. 

This episode is about one of the most famous paintings in the world, the Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa is also sometimes known as “La Gioconda” (La Jaconda” (“o” is “oh”), which means “the happy one” in Italian. The name of the painting is also a “play on words” or joke, because the painting is of a woman named Lisa del Giocondo. 

The Mona Lisa was painted during the 16th-century by an Italian oil painter named Leonardo da Vinci.  Leonardo lived in Florence, Italy during the Renaissance period in Europe.  The Renaissance was a time when there was much interest in art and writing in Europe the 14th–16th centuries.

Leonardo da Vinci was born in Italy in 1452.  His dad was a lawyer and his mom was a peasant woman. Leonardo studied art as a child with the famous Italian painter Andrea del Verrocchio.  During the Renaissance, it was common for men to learn many different art and science skills.  Leonardo studied hard with his painting teachers. Because this was a long time ago and Leonardo was not yet famous, there is not a lot known about his childhood.  There are only reports that he was very curious and had a very inventive imagination.  Inventive means someone who is creative and comes up with original inventions or ideas.

Leonardo was interested in many different art forms, including inventing and designing new  technologies.  This means developing new machines or robotics, making things automated and easier to do.  Leonard imagined and then drew pictures of flying machines, armored fighting vehicles, solar powered inventions and an adding machine.  At the time, most of his designs were not actually built as real objects, it just wasn’t possible yet.  This was because modern science and engineering were only just starting to be developed.  Leonardo is sometimes credited with having invented the parachute, helicopter and tank. 

But Leonardo’s first love was oil painting.  He often painted portraits of wealthy people who hired him.  The Mona Lisa was painted as one of these portraits.  Although historians don’t know for sure, they believe that the painting is of Lisa del Giocondo, who was the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a rich silk merchant who lived in Florence.

Leonardo began painting the Mona Lisa around 1503 in Florence, Italy.  At the time, he was around 51 years old. He would have had the woman in the painting sit to be painted many times before it was completed. Other painters at the time that knew Leonardo said that he worked on it slowly for four years.  He tinkered with it and eventually left it unfinished. 

Because historians are not 100% sure this painting is of Lisa del Giocondo, alternative theories have been believed by some people.  Alternative theories means different ideas about something. Some people believe that the Mona Lisa painting is actually a painting of Leonardo da Vinci’s mother, Caterina.  Other people think that the woman in the painting looks a lot like Leonardo himself and that maybe the painting is a self-portrait of the painter wearing women’s clothing. 

The painting was completed around 1508 and later brought to France by Leonardo in 1516.  The King of France, Francis the 1st, purchased the painting from Leonardo. King Francis I was very interested in art and particularly liked Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings.  He purchased many of them during Leonardo’s lifetime. 

King Francis I hung the Mona Lisa in the Chateau Fontainebleau (Foo-tan-bloo). This was one of the medieval castles that belonged to the French royals, and was situated about 34 miles southwest of the center of Paris. French monarchs lived in this palace, including King Francis I.  He did a lot of work on the palace during his lifetime, including building an art gallery.  This is where he hung the Mona Lisa and other paintings he purchased from Leonardo da Vinci. 

The Gallery of Francis I is considered to be one of the first and finest examples of Renaissance decoration in France.  It was originally constructed in 1528 as a passageway between the apartments of the King with the courtyard, or garden area.

After Francis I’s death, other French kings kept the Gallery of Francis I intact.  This was until Louis XIV (the 14th) became the new king of France in 1643.  Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, preferred to spend time at the Palace of Versailles and he eventually moved the Mona Lisa and other paintings there. Louis XIV loved art and he purchased many additional art pieces during his lifetime. He displayed these pieces in beautiful rooms of the Palace of Versailles.

The Mona Lisa remained at the Palace of Versaille until the French Revolution. This was a period of time when there was a lot of change in France.  The new leader of France after the revolution was Napoleon Bonaparte.  He moved the Mona Lisa to his home in the Tuileries (Tru-la-vee) Place and hung it in his bedroom.

Later, in 1797, the Mona Lisa was moved to the Louvre, a famous art museum in Paris where it is still hanging today.  It is owned by the Government of France.

In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen! The Louvre museum thought it was being photographed but when they checked to see if it was safe, but in reality someone had taken it. The Louvre closed for one week to help look for it.

People thought a French poet named Guillaume Apollinaire (Gee-ohm Apol-in-air) stole it. He was put into jail, and he tried to make people think his friend, the artist Pablo Picasso did it, and he was questioned. It was not either of them, though.

The Mona Lisa was lost for two years, and everybody thought it would be lost forever. A worker at the Louvre, named Vincenzo Peruggia (Per-oo-zhee-uh), had actually stolen it. He and two other workers had taken the portrait from the wall, hid with it in a closet overnight and the next day, Vincenzo hid it in his coat and walked out with it after the museum had closed. He wanted the painting to go back to Italy and be shown in an Italian museum. After hiding it in his apartment for two years, he grew impatient and tried to sell it to a gallery in Florence, Italy.  But he was caught. The painting was shown all over Italy before going back to the Louvre. People thought Vincenzo was a hero who loved Italy, so he only spent a few months in jail.

During World War II the Mona Lisa, was singled out as the most-endangered artwork in the Louvre.  Endangered means threatened.  In this case, the French Government likely worried that enemies would steal or destroy it. The Mona Lisa was moved to various locations in France’s countryside.  It was returned to the Louvre museum in 1945 after peace had been declared. It later traveled to the United States in 1963, and over 40,000 people per day came to see it. 

Over the years, a few people have tried to vandalize the Mona Lisa.  This means to trash or wreck the painting.  Why someone would want to destroy the painting is a real question.  But that is why the Mona Lisa is now displayed behind bullet proof glass. 

Other artists have tried to copy Leonard da Vinci’s painting style and have even painted copies of the Mona Lisa.  It is such a famous painting that it is written about in poems and songs and featured in movies — and it is estimated that it is worth over $860 million dollars! 

Have you ever seen an image of the Mona Lisa? If you haven’t be sure to look it up later.  I’d love to see it in real life someday at the Louvre Museum. Hopefully one day you’ll get a chance to see it yourself!

Thanks for listening and be sure to tune in next time!

Mona Lisa Quiz

  1. Who painted the Mona Lisa? Leonardo da Vinci
  2. What country did the painter live in? Italy
  3. What forms of art did Leonardo da Vinci like to work with? Painting, inventing and designing new technologies
  4. What are some modern inventions that people think Leonardo da Vinci originally designed? Parachute, helicopter, tank
  5. How many years did it take to paint the Mona Lisa? Four
  6. The king of which country purchased the Mona Lisa in 1508? France
  7. Which leader hung the Mona Lisa in his bedroom? Napoleon Bonaparte
  8. Which famous art museum in Paris houses the Mona Lisa now? The Louvre
  9. Who owns the Mona Lisa? The Government of France
  10. Who stole the Mona Lisa and hid it in his apartment for two years? A worker at the Louvre, Vincenzo Peruggia, who wanted to take it back to Italy

Mona Lisa Activities

  1. Find a picture of the Mona Lisa on the internet.  Who do you think the painting is of? A rich Italian woman? Leonardo da Vinci dressed as a woman?
  2. Draw or paint a copy of the Mona Lisa.  Imagine you are Leonardo da Vinci, or one of the many people who made copies of the painting. 
  3. Leonardo da Vinci loved to sketch pictures of different inventions that he came up with.  Try this yourself with a pencil and paper.  What are some machines or inventions that you think people in the future could use?
  4. While you are drawing, search and listen to some classical Italian music.  This may have been the type of music that the artist liked to listen to in his day. 
  5. Some popular Italian foods include tomatoes, lemons, olives and olive oil.  Search up a classic Italian recipe that kids can cook and make an Italian dinner for your family like Leonardo da Vinci might have eaten.  (link: https://www.kidspot.com.au/kitchen/recipes/collections/italian-recipes).  Don’t forget to have an adult help you!

The History of Glass for Kids

If you look around your house, and it’s like mine, you’ll probably notice a very common item. Jars are made out of it, some cups and bowls are made out of it, maybe a few decorations on your shelves. This is what windows are made out of and the screens on tablets and phones. Can you guess what it is? …. If you said glass you are correct! Many household items are made from glass. Sometimes materials like glass are just taken for granted. That means we have them but we don’t really understand how they are made or the history behind them, so we don’t really think much about them. But tonight we’re going to talk about the history of glass. Where it comes from, how it’s made and the many steps through history until it became the glass we know today!

To my surprise, I found out glass has been around for a very long time. It’s funny because I thought it was a more recent invention, but the earliest known man made glass is from 3500 B.C., which is about 5500 years ago! Crazy, right? But even before that a form of glass, called obsidian, was used hundreds of thousands of years ago in the Stone Age. You’ve probably heard of the Stone Age, where early humans lived a very simple  life, just barely getting by. It was a hard life. Metals weren’t even invented yet and so basic stones were used as tools. Obsidian was one of those tools. It’s a black, glossy rock that is formed from the lava of volcanoes. Stone age humans used it to cut meat to eat and animal skins for clothes and shelter. It was very sharp, so it was a very popular rock to own! But obsidian was different from later glass, because humans didn’t create it, they just found it lying around volcanoes.

So later, around 3500 B.C. in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia humans learned to make the first glass. Most of the early glass was not clear like the glass you know today and usually they just used it for jewelry, the beads in necklaces, for example. But later they found ways to shape it into bowls and it continued to be very valuable, because very few people knew how to make glass objects. 

Over the years glassmakers became very skilled at their craft and by the time of the Roman Empire, they found ways to make it more clear and transparent. Archeologists have found many glass objects around the world that date back to Roman times, proving they were getting very good at glassmaking. The Romans also became skilled at carving (or etching) in the glass and it was traded all across the Roman empire.

By Medieval Times glassmakers became so good that they were able to create windows of glass and used them to decorate the windows of many churches and cathedrals. A cathedral is a very big church. Often these glass windows were red and blue and green and yellow, many different colors, which is called stained glass. When the light hits these colored windows, it produces a very beautiful effect. 

Next, during Renaissance Times one of the best known places for glass making was Murano, Venice in what is now known as Italy. Venice is a city literally built on the water on stilts. Can you believe that!? Venice even has a huge cathedral, or church, built on top of the water. People use boats to travel around the city and bridges over the water to connect the neighborhoods. It’s an amazing place to visit if you ever get the chance. 

So the glassmakers of Venice were very good at their work, but glassmaking required hot furnaces so it often started fires. So the city leaders had the idea to move all of the glassmaking to the island of Murano, off the coast of Venice, this way if there was a fire it wouldn’t burn down the rest of the city. Good idea, right? The first glassmakers of Murano became famous for their beautiful glass beads and mirrors. Unlike earlier glass their glass was very clear, similar to the glass you see today. And because they were so good at their job, the Murano glassmakers were paid very well and given lots of privileges in Venice. But one thing they weren’t allowed to do was leave! There were very strict rules about the glassmakers not leaving and starting their own businesses or sharing their ideas with people outside of the city. But even with the rules, some of the glassmakers were able to escape and soon the technique of making glass spread across Europe. If you visit Venice today glassmakers still live and work there and there you can see them at work, creating and shaping their glass in beautiful ways.

If you’ve never seen how glassblowing works, it’s worth finding a video and watching it, but basically one person takes a very long tube called a blowpipe. Then molten glass is heated up on the far end in a very hot furnace. They spin the blowpipe in the furnace, shape it on a metal table, and then begin to blow into the end of the pipe. This expands the hot glass on the end, making it larger. Then it’s put in the furnace again and shaped and blown through the pipe, over and over until it’s the shape and size the maker wants it to be. Finally it’s placed in a kiln until it cools and is ready to be used. Like I said, check out a video about glassblowing sometime, it’s really fascinating.

And what is glass made of? There are different materials used to make glass, which include sand, soda ash, and limestone, but it’s melted at such high temperatures it becomes a liquid that can then be shaped or made flat depending on what the creator plans to make.

So back to the history of glassmaking, in 1674 an English glassmaker named George Ravenscroft invented lead glass, which is also known as crystal, and was a major breakthrough in glassmaking. 

And then by the 1900s engineers designed machines to make glass. Do you know what happens when you find ways to build something faster? It takes less time, so it becomes less expensive. During the Industrial Revolution, an inventor named Michael Owen’s created an automatic bottle blowing machine, which could make 2,500 bottles in one hour! Soon even ordinary people were able to own glass and used them for cups, bowls, bottles, windows and in many other ways.

In the 1950s Alastair Pilkington discovered a way to make huge glass sheets by floating molten glass on a metal like tin or lead. This allowed them to create large sheets for windows and is now used widely and known as the Pilkington Process after its creator. 

Today glass is created in many different ways, using different chemicals to make it stronger so it breaks less. If you’ve noticed the glass in many phones has become stronger due to these better techniques. This is part of the engineering process. Taking something that works and using new techniques or materials to make it better. That might mean making it faster or making it work better or stronger. That idea applies to your own life. You can take something you like and work at it until you become better and better at it.

So, what do you think about glass? Is it more interesting now? I’ll bet when you see glass next you won’t think about it the same. If you’re like me, you’ll look at it and think “wow, I didn’t know it took SO long to get to the kind of clear glass we use today, and how many inventors and glassmakers it took until they were able to figure it out.” 

Next time you see something common, like the lights in your house or the refrigerator or the TV, do some investigating yourself. Find a video or an article and read all about the history of that object. It’s fascinating to find out how we got to the inventions we all know and appreciate now.