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Answer 106. Oscar Wilde was driven to Bow Street police station and charged with indecency. Denied bail, he was later sent to Holloway prison to await trial.

The jury failed to agree at the first trial. Oscar was found guilty at the second and sentenced to the maximum two years imprisonment with hard labour – oakum picking, in his case.

He served his sentence in Pentonville at first and then in Wandsworth prison in south London. Conditions there were so bad that he was transferred to Reading gaol on 21 November 1895. While waiting for a train at Clapham Junction, he was forced to stand on the platform for half an hour, dressed in prison clothes and handcuffed to a warder.

He was soon recognised. A jeering crowd gathered round, laughing and spitting at him. ‘For a year after that was done to me,’ he recalled, ‘I wept every day at the same hour and for the same space of time.’

Oscar hated every second of his time in prison, but the experience gave him the material for De Profundis and the Ballad of Reading Gaol, two of his greatest works. He was a much bigger man than his tormentors.


West abbeyOn 24 June 1509, a 17-year-old-boy was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey. Dressed in crimson robes and studded with rubies and diamonds, he and his wife walked to the Abbey from Whitehall Palace across the road.

They walked around the side of the Abbey (from left to right in the picture) along a carpet of striped blue cloth strewn with herbs and flowers.

A huge crowd gathered to cheer. As soon as the procession had disappeared into the Abbey for the ceremony, ‘the rude and common people’ fell on the carpet and chopped it up for souvenirs.

HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 107. Who was the 17-year-old new King?

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