The reason, in case you are wondering, is that this was when Britain and its colonies changed the calendar, replacing the Julian system introduced by Julius Caesar with the more accurate Gregorian arrangement established by Pope Gregory XIII. I’ve always found the concept a little difficult to grasp, but essentially the astronomical year is 365.24219 days long, and the Julian Year is 365.25 days long, which may not sound much of a difference, but over hundreds of years a discrepancy built up, so the calendar was out of kilter with real time.
|Pope Gregory XIII, portrait by Lavinia Fontana |
Even more confusingly, history books always used to claim that the ‘Calendar Act’ sparked rioting in the streets from angry residents demanding the return of their lost days, but there is no contemporary evidence for any kind of civil unrest and the tale seems to be the 18th century equivalent of an urban myth. The story may have been prompted by a misinterpretation of a Hogarth painting, An Election Entertainment, which shows a placard carrying the slogan ‘Give us our Eleven Days’.
|Hogarth's An Election Entertainment|
Britain was one of the last places to reform the calendar, as Pope Gregory XIII issued a Papal Bull calling for the change in 1587: he was concerned that even allowing for the fact that Easter is a moveable feast, the drift in dates meant it could no longer be celebrated at the right time, but the alteration also ensured correct timing for the spring and autumn equinoxes.
It’s sometimes forgotten, British ‘Calendar Act’ also changed the first day of the year to January 1st from March 25th, when contracts were drawn up and payments made. After the loss of 13 days from the calendar March 25th became April 6th (or old Lady Day), which is the start of our tax year.
I was going to suggest your commemorated this historic occasion by buying a new calendar for next year, but I've left it a bit lte to post this, and I guess most of the shops will be shut, so you'll have to force yourself to fall back on celebratory cakes and wine... or biscuits and tea... or anything else you fancy.