British Ballooning Vincenzo Lunardi was only 22 when he came to England as Secretary to Prince Caramanico, the Neapolitan Ambassador. Born in Lucca, Italy, then part of the Kingdom of Naples in 1759, Vicenzo was one of three children. His family were of minor Neapolitan nobility, and his father had married late in life. He travelled in France in his early years before being called home, where he was put into the diplomatic service. There was a flying craze in France and Scotland with James Tytler, Scotland’s first aeronaut and the first Briton to fly (and, incidentally, an editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica), but even so and after a year since the invention of the balloon, the English were still skeptical, and so George Biggin and ‘Vincent’ Lunardi, “The Daredevil Aeronaut”, together decided to demonstrate a hydrogen balloon flight at the Artillery Ground of the Honourable Artillery Company in London on 15 September 1784. His balloon was later exhibited at the Pantheon in Oxford Street. However, because 200,000 strong crowd (which included eminent statesmen and the Prince of Wales) had grown very impatient, the young Italian had to take-off without his friend Biggin, and with a bag that was not completely inflated, but he was accompanied by a dog, a cat and a caged pigeon. The flight from the Artillery Ground travelled in a northerly direction towards Hertfordshire, with Lunardi making a stop in Welham Green, before eventually bringing the balloon to rest in Standon Green End. The road junction (more…)
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