Embarrassing Chapters in British History

Guess these people, places, and things in British history that the country would probably rather forget.
Easily offended? Here are some more chapters to get mad about.
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: September 10, 2018
First submittedMay 3, 2018
Times taken24,526
Average score65.0%
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Question
Answer
This king marries six times and has two of his wives beheaded
King Henry VIII
During the Boer War, the British invent this type of "camp", later used by the Nazis
Concentration Camp
In the 1840s, one million people die from famine on this island. Meanwhile, food from that
island is exported to England.
Ireland
Britain forces China to accept imports of this addictive drug
Opium
This person dies after her car was chased by paparazzi
Princess Diana
In Victorian times, small boys are forced to work at this dangerous profession
Chimney Sweep
At the behest of the United States, this Prime Minister leads Britain into the Iraq War
Tony Blair
England loses to this tiny nation in the 2016 UEFA European Championship
Iceland
This royal office, responsible for helping the King use the toilet, is considered
one of the most desirable positions in the Tudor court
Groom of the Stool
British troops torture people during the Mau Mau uprising in this country
Kenya
Between 1803 and 1905 the aboriginal population of this Australian island is completely
killed off due to disease and murder
Tasmania
This holiday is banned under the Puritanical rule of Oliver Cromwell
Christmas
80,000 British soldiers are captured when this city falls to the Japanese in WWII
Singapore
This Prime Minister appeases the Nazis, blessing their annexation
of parts of Czechoslovakia
Neville Chamberlain
Nearly 100 people die in this city's St. Scholastica Day Riot after students
complain about the quality of their beverages
Oxford
In 1290, these people are expelled from England and their assets are seized
Jews
A famine, partially caused by British policies, kills 2 million people in this country in 1943
India
This English king spends only six months of his reign in England, preferring his
estates in southwest France
Richard the Lionheart
This king rules Britain for 60 years, but is insane for many of them
King George III
40,000 troops are slaughtered trying to capture this tiny Turkish peninsula during WWI
Gallipoli
+22
Level 83
May 3, 2018
Diana's drunk French driver crashes her car while going double the speed limit. And this is an embarrassment to Britain . . . how?
+22
Level 83
May 3, 2018
Mi5 agents were shining lights into the driver's eyes to cause the car crash.

(kidding!) actually I think the commenter has a point. The more embarrassing aspect to the British would be all the idiotic conspiracy theories that surfaced afterward in tabloids.

+1
Level 77
May 4, 2018
Her name was never Princess Diana.
+1
Level 54
May 4, 2018
What.
+5
Level 90
May 4, 2018
yes, calling her princess diana means she had the title in her own right she was hrh the princess of wales. technically after the divorce she was allowed the title diana, princess of wales but her name was lady diana spencer.
+4
Level 35
May 4, 2018
He is actually right. She was styled as 'Diana, Princess of Wales' never as 'Princess Diana'. I think it is because she married into the royal family rather than being born into it.
+4
Level 83
Sep 28, 2018
If her name was Diana Princess of Wales this implies that her proper name is Diana and that she was a princess and therefore it would be entirely accurate to call her Princess Diana.
+11
Level 77
Sep 28, 2018
You'd think so, but that's not how the royal family works. I'm not defending the lunacy, but strictly speaking she was Princess Charles because she was a princess by marriage not by birth. There are still some such weird-sounding titles around (Princess Michael of Kent, for example), but Diana was the first princess whose own name had become so prominent that it was clear the public wouldn't accept the use of her husband's name - hence the convoluted (but correct) formulation "Diana, Princess of Wales". Since then they've been sure to create new titles immediately on marriage to avoid the problem - so Kate Middleton is now the Duchess of Cambridge, and Meghan Markle is the Duchess of Sussex. You don't hear the (correct but absurd) titles Princess William or Princess Harry, but nor do you hear the incorrect titles Princess Kate or Princess Meghan either.
+4
Level 83
Sep 28, 2018
I don't give a flip how the Royal Family works. It's how the English language works.
+2
Level 73
Oct 4, 2018
That would make her 'the princess Diana' rather than 'Princess Diana'.
+4
Level 83
Jan 7, 2019
::eyeroll::
+7
Level 69
Dec 30, 2020
the artist formerly known as Princess Diana
+2
Level 73
Jan 2, 2021
I get it. Accuracy is important until it's inconvenient.
+13
Level 87
Jun 17, 2018
The same English press that portrayed her as a cheating money grabber turned her into the "people's princess" the day they chased her into a wall. Nobody does public relations better than the entire press corps on itself.
+3
Level 66
Feb 14, 2020
I've still got the copy of Private Eye that covered this - they listed headlines from various newspapers that completely contradicted themselves. In some cases it was the same writer doing a complete u-turn hours before and after the crash.
+14
Level ∞
Apr 16, 2020
The embarrassing part is how terrible the British press is.
+2
Level 75
May 3, 2018
Brilliant quiz. Now I dare you to do a similar one for the United States!
+17
Level ∞
May 3, 2018
We did! Can't live in a glass house if you want to throw stones.
+2
Level 75
May 3, 2018
Nice - I guess I'll have to do a NZ one now...
+2
Level 83
May 3, 2018
I made a series about the USA years ago.
+5
Level 81
May 3, 2018
Contrary to what was once taught, Tasmania's indigenous population was not completely killed off. Thousands of people today claim descent in Tasmania. From Wikipedia: "During the 20th century, the absence of Aboriginal people of solely indigenous ancestry, and a general unawareness of the surviving populations, meant many non-Aboriginals assumed they were extinct, after the death of Truganini in 1876. Since the mid-1970s Tasmanian Aboriginal activists such as Michael Mansell have sought to broaden awareness and identification of Aboriginal descent." Whilst the genocide in Tasmania is undoubtedly an embarrassment to both Britain and my own country, I think it does a disservice to Tasmanian aboriginals to say "completely killed off". Perhaps an "almost" is needed.
+7
Level ∞
May 4, 2018
Yes, there are people of mixed descent. It's pretty remarkable, however, that British settlers killed off every single person of pure Tasmanian descent in just 100 years.
+2
Level 75
Oct 21, 2019
The argument is largely academic, but he's right, not every Tasmanian Aborigine was killed by the British, but it was as good as a complete genocide. After all the wars and displacements and exile, 47 Tasmanian Aborigines were returned to Tasmania (to just down the road from where I'm sitting), where they lived out their lives. There were many more descendants of Tasmanian Aborigines, and there still are, but there are no full Tasmanian Aborigines. It's not so surprising that the British were so thorough, Tasmania is a small place and there wasn't a big population of Tasmanian Aborigines to begin with, though diseases like the common cold did most of the killing.
+3
Level 83
May 3, 2018
Where's the one about the Belgians?
+22
Level ∞
May 4, 2018
One quiz wouldn't do it justice. It would have to be a series.
+9
Level 73
May 4, 2018
Do it! The world must know about the Belgian scourge!
+2
Level 84
May 4, 2018
If anyone does, I will comment every question. But maybe I should do it :p.
+1
Level 71
Sep 14, 2018
Congo and Heysel, that's all I know!
+2
Level 78
Sep 28, 2018
Just be nice to my homies in Bruges.
+1
Level 84
May 4, 2018
Apart from Congo, I don't know what you're talking about. You wouldn't agree with Nigel Farage, would you?
+2
Level 70
May 6, 2018
I suspect they aren't being entirely serious! Lol

Though Mark Dutroux would be another low point for Belgium.

+1
Level 84
May 14, 2018
I was not totally serious either. Btw, I wouldn't have thought of Dutroux (that pathetic individual should be totally forgotten imo), but rather the royal question, the school wars, the 60 strike and other serious Belgian stuff like that ;).
+1
Level 80
Jun 18, 2018
French Fries
+5
Level 77
Sep 28, 2018
Creating fries is an accomplishment, not an embarrassment. It's their habit of dipping them in mayo that's the embarrassment. :)
+2
Level 80
Apr 17, 2020
I meant another country getting the game for inventing fries.
+1
Level 59
Nov 29, 2021
"Apart from the Congo" is a pretty big reservation given their appalling record there.
+7
Level 67
Sep 28, 2018
There are only two things I can't stand: intolerance of other cultures, and the Belgians.
+1
Level 67
Sep 28, 2018
Lol, that sounds like what they said in Austin Powers, except Dutch instead of Belgians.
+2
Level 52
Dec 30, 2020
Stubborn Belgians, refusing to tell us what a pipe is!!!
+2
Level 74
May 4, 2018
you should add Persian famine of 1917–1919. it was really disastrous and according to some sources about half of the population of Persia were perished.
+3
Level 39
May 4, 2018
After the St Scholastica Day riot, the Mayor of Oxford and 63 townspeople did penance every year - one for each person killed. It's a bit of an exaggeration to call 63 "nearly 100".
+5
Level ∞
May 4, 2018
The 63 scholars weren't the only ones who died. Local townspeople died as well.
+2
Level 87
May 7, 2018
These are the highlights (or lowlights) of British history!?! Wow, I can think of a few others than these.
+2
Level 71
May 7, 2018
Such a lot of selective, outdated or just wildly inaccurate "facts" here...... (Christmas "banned", Chamberlain "blessing", Richard "preferring", George insane for "many", obligatory and utterly unembarrassing football reference)
+2
Level 70
Jul 16, 2018
Celebrating Christmas was banned in England for 13 years.
+1
Level 53
May 30, 2020
I think they are all accurate except for the invention of the concentration camp, which seems to have been during the wars in South America a few years previously.
+12
Level 76
May 26, 2018
For a lot of us in the UK, England's defeat to Iceland was hilarious rather than embarrassing.
+3
Level 64
Sep 28, 2018
It was embarassing if you were like me and watched it with a few thousand Iceland-supporting Scandinavians (that probably included several hundred icelandic)....
+3
Level 70
Apr 30, 2021
I think the joke was: ‘99 percent of the Icelandic population watched the match against England. The other 1percent was on the pitch!’
+1
Level 42
May 10, 2021
or the 'joke' could have been that not all British people are English. Wales was still in the tournament at the time and made it to the semi-final.
+16
Level 67
Sep 28, 2018
Don't forget Piers Morgan. Every day he walks around is a stain on Great Britain.
+3
Level ∞
Sep 28, 2018
Knew I forgot one!
+2
Level 87
Dec 30, 2020
James Corden too, probably. I know a ton of British people hate him.
+2
Level 67
Sep 28, 2018
First American embarassing moments and now British ones. Are these all about western nations or are you going to do ones on other nations like Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Mongolia too?
+9
Level ∞
Sep 28, 2018
An "embarrassing chapters" quiz is like a celebrity roast. You have to be be famous to earn one.
+2
Level 67
Sep 28, 2018
Are Japanese, Mongols, Arabs, and Turks not all famous for their atrocities too? Of course. I really hope it's not because of political correctness that there have only been ones on western nations and not on others.
+2
Level 51
Oct 28, 2019
is China a western country? didn't think so
+1
Level 63
Dec 30, 2020
Calm down dear.
+7
Level 64
Sep 28, 2018
You have the famine in India in 1943, but don't mention one of the main people responsible - Winston Churchill. In fact - you could have a whole quiz just on him - e.g. calling British miners "rats" who should get back down their "hole", his support for Chemical weapons, comments on the Kurds (and many other non-white non-British ethnic groups). I've never understood why he is held in such high regard by so many people.
+3
Level 75
Sep 30, 2018
Very true. While more than a fair share glory has always been accorded to Churchill, little is ever mentioned or said about what a horrible, racist and morally corrupt person he was. During the said famine, when the British officials begged Churchill to direct food supplies to Bengal, he refused saying that it was entirely the fault of the Indians for breeding like rabbits and the starvation was “merrily” culling the population. If true justice needs to be done to the nature of this quiz in bringing to light the "embarrassing chapters", it would be rather unfortunate to not name the horrible person who was the main perpetrator. More on the corrupt views of Churchill can be read here: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29701767
+1
Level 43
Jan 1, 2021
Selective revisionism is never helpful in a debate.
+1
Level 62
May 13, 2020
Exactly. At that time Churchill asked the ship coming to Calcutta (containing foodgrains) to divert and go to Europe instead. When an official wrote from India that this is leading to thousands of death, Churchill replied- ' Why hasn't Gandhi died yet?'

The second world war seems to have washed all his sins.

If you take all the colonies and the cruelty of the Empire in these countries, British empire didn't only had blood on their hands but they were bathing in blood.

+1
Level 70
Dec 30, 2020
Yeah, agree. Churchill's mostly praised for his leadership in WW2, and while that's admirable, most of the other stuff he's done is very much not. The Western world really needs to take a step back and re-examine his legacy.
+1
Level 59
Apr 29, 2021
Anyone with an interest in modern British history does: we don't all idolize Churchill uncritically.
+1
Level 43
Jan 1, 2021
You don't understand why Churchill is held in such regard? How long have you got?
+1
Level 45
Sep 28, 2018
Labor camp should be accepted
+1
Level 65
Sep 28, 2018
I would add the bombardment of Copenhagen as the first terror bombardment in history. It successfully burned down the city and killed thousands of civilians. But then again I guess it is actually celebrated as a military victory in the UK, so maybe not something to be ashamed of?
+1
Level 66
Feb 14, 2020
Yeah, why not. The firebombing of Pforzheim would be a war crime in any decent world but instead they gave the guy who led the raid the highest possible award for bravery.

I'm English, and I wish more people knew stuff like this.

+1
Level 53
May 30, 2020
I don't think it is celebrated as a military victory here in Britain - I'm afraid most people aren't even aware of it. We are embarrassed on the whole about the bombing of Dresden, though, which sounds very similar.
+1
Level 66
Dec 30, 2020
Some decent British people are embarrassed by this, but then again, there's a rather big statue of Bomber Harris right on the Strand...
+10
Level 63
Sep 28, 2018
UPDATED NEEDED QM.New clue: Conservative Party attempt to lance the boil of their deep deep divisions on europe and call an EU referendum, with leader thinking its a shoe-in to remain but miscalculates that a largely clueless public unaware of the details, longevity and seriousness of such a decision decide this is the time to trade in the pain of the banker collapse and austerity in order inflict a bloody nose and protest vote their way out of europe but then the leading protagonists have no idea how to actualise the decision and the Conservative Party continue to fight each other about how they leave the eu to the point where no deal is possible and the uk's economy tanks.....ANSWER: BREXIT #takingbackcontrol #canwedoadeathpenaltyrefnext
+3
Level 52
Dec 30, 2020
Bob’s is down the road; they sell chill pills
+1
Level 70
Dec 30, 2020
Yeah, honestly I feel like, regardless of your personal views on Brexit, it's probably a pretty embarrassing chapter in British history. I feel like all the news I've heard about it suggests that the government has no idea what they've gotten into. I've heard of polls that suggest that Brexit wouldn't happen today if people knew how screwed up the negotiations would be. Plus, there were like 2 million deadline extensions and multiple rejected deals.

That said, I'm not an expert on it, so maybe I shouldn't judge.

+3
Level 59
Sep 28, 2018
England 50k square miles.

"Tiny" nation 39k square miles.

Hardly "tiny"

+5
Level 78
Sep 28, 2018
Population.
+1
Level 63
Sep 28, 2018
Doh!
+3
Level 38
Sep 28, 2018
UK : 65 648 100 people.

Iceland : 348 580 people.

+2
Level 59
Apr 29, 2021
FFS, England is not the UK! (although England's population still dwarfs that of Iceland)
+4
Level 70
Sep 28, 2018
A bit of a disappointment that you didn't ask for the Raid on the Medway... the fact that the Dutch sailed right into the lion's den, destroyed a large part of the British fleet and towed off their flagship to the Netherlands is certainly not forgotten in Dutch history classes! Actually, a coat of arms of that flagship (the Royal Charles) is still on display in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
+1
Level 53
May 30, 2020
Ooh yes good one! It's well remembered here in Kent. Not so sure about the rest of the country - that one genuinely is embarrassing.
+1
Level 37
Sep 28, 2018
Wow! - Learned that the British were cruel task masters, but never knew that they were this reprehensible! Would it relate to the fact that the British royal family is of predominantly German heritage, but can't blame the Germans (Hitler was Austrian). Still, they had to have gotten their barbarism from somewhere. And I always wondered why the Irish had such hatred of the UK; now I understand.
+5
Level 83
Sep 28, 2018
No it wouldn't relate to that.
+12
Level ∞
Sep 28, 2018
@divantilya. Please don't use this quiz (or any other) to justify hatred towards another country.
+2
Level 37
May 24, 2019
How am I justifying hatred of another country? - I am referring to what I've learned from YOUR OWN quizzes. So, if anyone is justifying hatred, it is you not I.
+9
Level 77
Apr 16, 2020
The idea that barbarism is genetically transmitted or innate to certain ethnicities is barbarous in itself, and a staple of Nazi ideology.
+3
Level 78
Dec 30, 2020
Thank you camus, this is what I wanted to say but you've phrased it much more pithily than I could.
+6
Level 50
Sep 28, 2018
Add Brexit to this quiz.
+1
Level 76
Apr 9, 2019
Got 18 in this quiz, compared to 11 in the US version (I'm from Malaysia)
+4
Level 48
Oct 11, 2019
Might be good to add 'Bloody Sunday' to this quiz... Maybe
+2
Level 66
Feb 14, 2020
1920 or 1972? (Or one of the others?)
+2
Level 68
Aug 20, 2020
A famine "partically" caused? Practically? Partially?
+1
Level 67
Sep 4, 2020
This makes me even more irritated at the people here in the UK who think that Britain is nothing short of amazing...
+1
Level 52
Dec 30, 2020
Could not remember Henry’s numerals for the life of me
+5
Level 66
Dec 30, 2020
You could probably do a whole series just about the UK, with frequent updates as new chapters are written!
+2
Level 77
Dec 31, 2020
Euro 2016 was not much of an outlier in this national team's history...
+1
Level 58
Jan 2, 2021
I would recommend changing "things" in the instructions to "events"
+1
Level 30
Jan 3, 2021
Cromwell didnt ban christmas, they just tried to get rid of all the fun bits it involved. It was still the day Jesus was born.
+1
Level 59
Nov 29, 2021
And he also reversed the expulsion of the Jews which is a curious counterpoint to his image as a religious extremist.
+1
Level 71
Feb 13, 2022
Banks. He wanted the rich bankers back. That's my guess, anyway.
+1
Level 54
Feb 4, 2021
Several of England's old-time kings were insane. I suggest removing King George III and adding British General Reginald Dyer, who slaughtered thousands in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar, India.
+1
Level 57
Feb 9, 2021
Ah yes... Christmas is banned for 9 years.
+2
Level 36
Mar 1, 2021
The defeat to Iceland was in no way a surprise, nor was it anywhere near as bad as the fall of Singapore. In fairness to Cromwell, I'd ban Christmas entirely myself.
+1
Level 36
Mar 1, 2021
Quite a few of the items here aren't embarrassing: you could blame non-Brits for Diana's death, no English people forced Richard III to spend so much time away, George III being mad for "many of them" is hilarious, while being a tiny nation is no disadvantage when it's 11 vs 11 and you're the underdog.
+1
Level 36
Mar 1, 2021
Embarrassing: Medway has been mentioned, but you could have mentioned Morris Dancing, S-Club 7, Craig David, losing 1-0 to the USA at the 1950 World Cup, and the London riots.
+1
Level 58
Apr 15, 2021
Liked the sense of humour ("Easily offended? Here are some more chapters to get mad about.")
+1
Level 71
Apr 29, 2021
Is iceland really that small? I mean I guess it is smaller than the U.K. but its still larger than many a country
+1
Level 65
Jun 14, 2022
Boris Johnson needs to be added.