Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – gothic story contest winner dismissed by British Critic

By Robert Reed

The novel Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelley whilst on holiday visiting Lord Byron at his villa by Lake Geneva.  The weather was awful, so the group of friends decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story.  Mary won.  (Byron came up with some mad idea about vampires based on his travels in Eastern Europe- it’s not as if that would ever become hugely successful.) 

Frankenstein was published when Mary was just twenty-one years old in 1818.  The public loved the book, but critics were divided:  for example, the British Critic wrote, “The writer of it is, we understand a female… and we shall therefore dismiss the novel without further comment.”

Fortunately, times have changed British Critic. Also, Frankenstein is now recognised as a truly inspirational work, which continues to influence modern culture.  Hmm, I wonder where the idea for The Incredible Hulk came from?  (My daughter insists I mention the character of Frankie Stein in Monster High as well- okay, so now I’ve mentioned it.)

If you would like to use a Frankenstein story with children, there is a funny version Mrs Frankenstein M.D. available as a role play here:

If you have an assignment to write on Frankenstein, and need a little help, visit: .

Frankenstein is a scary tale about a slightly crazy scientist whose experiments go very wrong and he creates a monster with disastrous consequences. (Oh, and the monster is really quite a sad creature- boo hoo for him.)

Yep, even back in the early nineteenth-century people were wary about what scientists were getting up to in their labs and we can consider Frankenstein as not merely a horror story, but also one of the earliest works of science-fiction.

KS2: Everything you need to know about the Romans in 365 words!

By Robert Reed

Legend has it that Rome was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus on 21 April 753 BC.  The legend doesn’t say at what time of day this occurred, but it was probably after breakfast.  The city was named in honour of Romulus.

KS2 Ideas: There is a fantastic and very funny play for primary schools available at , which includes dressing up as Roman soldiers.

At first, Rome was ruled by kings; however, that ended in about 509 BC when Lucius Junius Brutus established the Roman Republic based on elections and assemblies.

There were some tough times for the Romans, the Gauls looted Rome in the third century and Hannibal gave the legions a fright with some elephants, but the Romans won the day. With a highly professional and skilled army, Rome began to conquer all her neighbours, which brought a flood of wealth and slaves (including Spartacus).

Soon Rome was divided between a super-rich elite and a mass of poor folks.

In 27 BC, Augustus became emperor after having defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces.  It was always dangerous being emperor, because someone -usually your nearest and dearest- wanted to murder you as soon as possible.

Under Trajan in 117 AD, the empire reached its greatest territorial extent: stretching from Britain to Egypt.

Marcus Aurelius was the last of the ‘Five Good Emperors’.  There were also some very mad and dangerous emperors, like Nero and Caligula.  Definitely not the kind of people who should become head teachers, but great names for class pets.

Popular entertainments were used to pacify the masses: like gladiatorial combat and chariot racing.

Political divisions, civil wars, economic problems, plague and a whole load of invading tribes meant trouble for the Imperium Romanum.  In 410 AD, the Visgoths trashed Rome and the once all-powerful Roman army ceased to exist, and that was the end of the Western Roman Empire.  However, in the East the empire continued as the Christian Byzantine Empire for another thousand years.

The Romans were great builders, leaving behind roads, aqueducts, monuments, temples, palaces and baths.  All this building was partly made possible by the invention of concrete.

Moreover, the Romans left a lasting legacy in many fields including art, literature, law, government, warfare, language and many more. However, there is no evidence that they invented Marmite, or PlayStations.

If the cohort in your class are researching the Romans, I suggest they visit this site: .

Mary, Mary Queen of Scots, why did you marry Darnley?

By Robert Reed

Mary returned to her native Scotland in 1561 after the death of her first hubby King Francis II of France. On Saturday 17th February, 1565, she met Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley at Wemyss Castle. He had a twinkle in his eye and was a nifty dancer. They had things in common: both were tall, red-headed and first cousins. What’s more they both had a strong claim to the throne of England. Pretty much instantly Mary was “bewitched” with her “long lad”, and they got hitched at Holyrood Palace on 29th July, 1565.

Why not bring the story of Mary Queen of Scots to life by performing a super-cool, funny play that’s totally suitable for kids! Visit for more details.

Darnley fell short of being a perfect husband on account of the fact that he was a violent, womanising drunk. Oh, he also wanted to rule Scotland as king in his own right. He was a bit like the Incredible Hulk: “Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!”, except that he was always angry. Also, Darnley was jealous of Mary’s friendship with an Italian musician called Rizzio, so Darnley and a few conspirator mates stabbed the poor Rizzio fifty-six times for good measure in front of the pregnant Queen. It was probably too late for marital counselling by then.

In November, 1566, Mary and some leading nobles had a secret meeting concerning what to do about Darnley. (The National Security Agency records of their subsequent mobile conversations are available on request.) Divorce was out of the question, so another way had to be found. At that time, Darnley was suffering from a rather unpleasant illness and living on a housing estate in Glasgow. Mary persuaded him to stay in Kirk o’Field near to her place. She visited him daily and then at 2.00 a.m. on the night of 10th February, 1567, the property he was staying in mysteriously blew up. Darnley was found in his pyjamas in the garden next to a plastic gnome. He had been suffocated.

The not-so-devastated Queen soon married the main suspect, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. Scotland was shocked and the ‘confederate lords’ rose in rebellion.

There are many interesting places to visit connected with the life of Mary Queen of Scots, and here’s a site full of them: .