Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday 30 October 2021

Devotion to the Holy Rood of Bromholm

I came across an article from EurekAlert about a recent study of a Prayer Roll from, or perhaps more accurately, devoted to the medieval Norfolk shrine of the Holy Rood of Bromholm Priory. It appears to date from the early sixteenth century, when the penultimate Prior, John Underwood, was titular Bishop of Chalcedon as an assistant to the Bishop of Norwich between 1505 and 1535. Only recently has it attracted scholarly attention. The article can be seen at Publication of 500-year-old manuscript exposes medieval beliefs and religious cults

The full, illustrated, Journal of the British Archaeological Association article can be seen at An Early-16th-Century Prayer Roll and the Holy Rood of Bromholm

The Mail Online also has a good synopsis with illustrations at 500-year-old prayer roll describes Christian practices in England

Publication of 500-year-old manuscript exposes medieval beliefs and religious cults
The first illumination of the Prayer Roll depicting the Holy Rood

Image: Gail Turner/Journal of the British Archaeological Association./ ScienceBlog

The Cluniac priory of St Andrew at Bromholm - Broom Island - was at Bacton on the north-east coast of Norfolk  Founded in 1113 from Castle Acre in the western part of the county and independent from 1298. In 1205 this impoverished house received the Holy Rood, given by a priest in return for admission to the community for himself and his two sons. The relic was loot from the sack of Constantinople the previous year by members of the army of the Fourth Crusade, and it was seen to work miracles. 

Heritage England has an account of the history and archaeology of the site at Bromholm Priory ruins, Bacton

Norfolk Tales, Myths and More also has a detailed, illustrated, history of the priory and its great relic at Bromholm Priory – Time Dependant! and which cites contemporary textual evidence. This account also includes something of the history of the Paston family and their role as the local patron of the priory in the fifteenth century.

Despite the 1424 report of the Rood being thrown into a fire it appears to have survived until 1537. Indeed had it been destroyed by the apparent Lollard chaplain such an action would be more clearly remembered. Testing relics - or Holy Writ - by putting them into a fire was not unknown. The idea was that a genuinely holy item could, so as to speak, look after itself. The existence of the Prayer Roll surely indicates that the Rood which is shown on it, was still extant in the early sixteenth century.

There is a shorter article about the Rood and the pilgrimage in the Weird Norfolk series in the Eastern Daily Press at Weird Norfolk: Bringing the dead back to life at Bromholm Priory

A 1937 article about the Holy Rood by Francis Wormold can be viewed on JSTOR at The Rood of Bromholm on JSTOR

In its early years as a place of pilgrimage the priory attracted in 1223 the young, and very devout, King Henry III on a visit. The Rood was mentioned by Langland and by Chaucer in The Reeve’s Tale.

There are Wikipedia accounts at Bacton, Norfolk and at Bromholm Priory

Norfolk Heritage Explorer has an online account of the archaeology of the 

There is a description of the priory ruins - which appear not to be in an ideal state - at Lost in a landscape: Bromholm Priory

The North Norfolk News has a report at Remains of 12th century priory in North Norfolk draw visitors about a 2017 Open Day at the site which is on private land. The This is Paston website features a 3D reconstruction of the Priory at Bromholm Priory
This is also featured in greater detail in  a 2020 BBC News illustrated report of the reconstruction and which also features the similar modelling of Paston Hall. This can be seen at Medieval Bacton priory brought to life with 3D modelling

For those interested in the history of the Paston family, the insights offered by their correspondence into fifteenth century life I would recommend H.S.Bennett’s eminently readable The Pastons and their England

The Bromholm shrine of the Holy Rood possessed some similarities to the greatest of all Norfolk shrines at Walsingham in the north-west of the county - both are remote rural settings that proved both to be centres of popular devotion and also attracted royal visits.

Scepticism as to relics of Holy Cross is by no means uncommon, but we should perhaps be sceptical about such scepticism. The vast majority of such relics are miniscule, so the size argument does not work, and they are usually authenticated by a significant religious authority. We csn never know their specific origin but to dismiss them out of hand is to be in its own way just as credulous as critics accuse the traditional faithful of being.

Publication of 500-year-old manuscript exposes medieval beliefs and religious cults

Another illustration of the Holy Rood from
the Prayer Roll.
The imagery references the devotion to the Five Wounds whilst setting the Rood in a monstrance. The blue and white background might be a link to the Paston family who had intermarried with the Beaufort family, who used a similar blue and white feature as a border to their arms.

Image: Gail Turner/Journal of the British Archaeological Association./ ScienceBlog

Hail Holy Cross, Our Hope!

Friday 29 October 2021

Roman statues from Stoke Mandeville church

and An Anglo Saxon church revealed about the excavation of the site of the old church of St Mary at Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire, abandoned in the nineteenth century, which is taking place in advance of the appalling HS2 project. 

The latest discoveries do make this a remarkable site as they are evidence that it had previously had a Roman mausoleum. The finds include the stone portrait busts of a man and a woman and the head of a child who had been commemorated within it.

The Mail Onlne website also has a report of the discovery, and has more details of other finds and of the interpretation of the site. It can be seen at Roman statues found under site of a Norman church in Stoke Mandeville

One can see that this site, this excavation, will become a classic example to be cited in books and lectures on church archaeology and on the  origins and evolution of the English parish church. It is relatively rare for an historic church site to be comprehensively excavated in this wsy as the church and churchyard are usually still in use. The abandonment of the church, at some distance from the village - and there must be a story in why the church was at a remove - has meant that such a project could be undertaken. The destructive nature of HS2 has now led to the site being investigated. The discoveries make one wonder what lies inaccessible beneath other ancient churches.

Thursday 28 October 2021

The Ultimate Designer Sunglasses?

I had seen another link to this story but then managed to lose it, but came across it again in this report from indianewsrepublic.com about a forthcoming auction at Sotheby’s of two pairs of seventeenth century Mughal sunglasses - an understated design with emeralds for lenses set in diamond encrusted frames…. - which can be seen at Rare diamonds, Mughal emerald eyeglasses auctioned in Britain

I had read in the past that the Emperor Nero used a slice of emerald as an early form of sunglasses when at the Games and here is evidence of the same medium to screen Imperial eyes.

Eat your heart out Rayban ….

Wednesday 27 October 2021

New insights into the effigy of Edward Prince of Wales

The Art Newspaper has a piece today about the latest research into the bronze tomb effigy of Edward Prince of Wales in Canterbury Csthedral. It is a summary of a longer article in the Burlington Magazine and it can be read at Secrets of the Black Prince's tomb effigy in Canterbury Cathedral revealed by scientists

The study concentrates on the detail of the Prince’s armour, and stresses the point that what was being created was a facsimile of his armour, not just a generic armoured figure. This ties in with the insights offered by Dr Toby Capwell, to whom I have referred in other posts, that tomb effigies at the upper end of the market did indeed seek to depict the real man and his real armour. This is the personality of the arms and the man that was recreated to commemorate and to elicit prayers for their soul.

I posted about the tomb and the Prince’s Achievements to mark the 645th anniversary of his death last June in Commemorating Edward Prince of Wales

Twelfth century Crusaders were here

Further to the discovery of what may well be a crusader sword which was mentioned in the previous post and which is outlined on the Mail Online at Sword found by scuba diver may have been dropped by a Crusader knight
other archaeological finds from the twelfth century have occurred recently.

The first is what appears to be a clear identification of the site of the battle of Arsuf in 1191. LiveScience has a report at Crusader battlefield where 'Richard the Lionheart' defeated Muslims is unearthed in Israel
For more about the battle I would recommend John Gillingham’s Richard I in the Yale English Monarchs series.

The second discovery is in the Smithsonian Magazine and is of a Crusader campsite in the northern part of the Holy Land. The account is at Archaeologists in Israel Unearth Only Known Crusader Encampment

A Medieval Archaeological Miscellany

I sometimes link together a series of related archaeological discoveries to make one post, and yesterday came across an article on the  History site which had done that for me, although the discoveries had little directly in common one with another.

Some of these discoveries I already knew about and I had posted about one - the Irish big statue - in September as featured below. Others were ones I was going to write about in any case. One was new to me, the presence of people of North African origins in 1340s London - more cosmopolitan, cf evidence for sixteenth century as in the crew of the Mary Rose and the individuals chronicled, in so far as one can, in Miranda Kaufmann’s Black Tudors and in my posts A Black trumpeter at the Court of King Henry VII and King Henry VIII and A Muslim girl at the Court of Queen Elizabeth I

For further information about some of these finds there are the following links:

I wrote about the Irish pagan statue in Pagan carving from an Irish bog and the discovery is reported upon by the Mail Online site at Archaeologists uncover Iron Age wooden pagan idol in Irish bog and by the Smithsonian Magazine at Eight-Foot-Tall, 1,600-Year-Old Statue of Pagan Deity Found in Ireland

The finding of the Crusader sword is reported upon also by the MailOnline at Sword found by scuba diver may have been dropped by a Crusader knight. I did see the point made that by assuming it is a sword lost by a Crusader the object is thereby imbued with a history that it may not actually have had. It makes for an attractive identification that resonates but may only be an assumption. I have two other links to discoveries from the Crusader era in the Holy Land which I will post separately.

The King Eardeulf/St Hardulph cave hermitage identification attracted quite a bit of media interest. The Guardian website has coverage of this story at Derbyshire cave house identified as ninth-century home to exiled kingDespite being cut into the rock it does seem remarkable that it should have survived unnoticed for so long, or indeed survived at all.
For more about the excavations on the site of Gloucester Castle and about its history see these reports from Cotswold Archaeology at Excavating Gloucester Prisonfrom Wessex Archaeology at Fortress to Gaol: The archaeology of the former HMP Gloucester and from the Mail Online website at Medieval castle discovered buried beneath prison's BASKETBALL court

I think I have posted in the past about the rituals suggested at Wharram Percy to keep the dead quiet. As Halloween approaches it helps to make quaint traditional Transylvanian customs ( if we are to believe Bram Stoker and Hammer Films ) seem not so remote… Wharram Percy is of course famous as the most studied and most thoroughly excavated deserted village in the country. The English Heritage history of the community is at History of Wharram Percy Deserted Medieval Village

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Fountains Abbey Leather

There have been two online reports about the latest archaeological discovery at Fountains Abbey, which is the identification of a sizeable tannery within the monastic precinct. It is the largest tannery identified on an English medieval monastic site, and was situated on the eastern site of the complex, down stream, and down wind, of the main buildings.

If I recall aright from my reading of R.B. Smith Land and Politics in the Reign of Henry VIII: The West Riding of Yorkshire 1530-1546 - a book I definitely recommend - and of the WEA history of Nidderdale project, Fountains had vaccaries in Nidderdale as well as extensive flocks of sheep on what became known as Fountains Fell.  The Cistercians were industrial pioneers or entrepreneurs in medieval Yorkshire, and doubtless elsewhere in the country. In addition to processing agricultural produce they engaged in metal working, but not always on site as in this instance. The industrial chimney alongside the rebuilt and refounded medieval Cistercian abbey at Buckfast in Devon is not as incongruous as one might at first think.

The discovery is reported upon by BBC News at Tannery find solves ancient monastery mystery
The Stray Ferret has more of the statement from the lead archaeologist and can be read at 
Fountains is, of course, justly famous and so very well worth visiting both for the extensive and awe-inspiring remains of the abbey and also for the post-reformation features of Fountains Hall and the exquisite eighteenth century landscape gardens created along the River Skell as the grounds of Studley Royal, together with a lavish Victorian church by William Burges. Verily a World Heritage Site.

As a functioning Cistercian house it was not only at the very beginning of the establishment of the White monks in England but it remained at the forefront to the very end in 1539, a spiritual and economic powerhouse and a witness to so many, interconnected, aspects of medieval life. 

Monday 25 October 2021

How not to film Agincourt - and how to understand it

Today is the anniversary of the battle of Agincourt in 1415. Not only was the English victory remarkable and of immense impact at the time, but from when news of it reached London it became, notably assisted by Shakespeare almost two centuries later, a significant part of the English, and later British, sense of identity.

I recently came across a video from HistoryLegends looking at the accuracy of the depiction of the battle of Agincourt in the film The King - a somewhat free-style ( to be generous ) retelling of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

The presenter concerns himself with the battle itself, not other aspects of the plot. He lays particular stress on the overall grey image and implausible armour that also, patently, needs polishing ( what is an esquire for on such an occasion - one wants to look one’s best on at a battle like this, where you are there to kill or be killed ). Even allowing for the weather and the fraught nature of the English march towards Calais King Henry and his knights would have indeed looked smarter - and more up to date in their armour. One could also mention that the impressive crown the King wore with his armour makes no appearance in the film.

By comparison the 1944 Olivier film does show men in shining armour and fine heraldic jupons. However he has radiant sunshine for the battle which is fought on rolling grassland, never mind the notoriously silly scene of knights being hoisted into their saddles.  There is by contrast to that far too much grunge and not very good armour in the very overrated Branagh film from the 1990s.
Fighting techniques as shown in The King also come in for criticism in the basis of their lack of historical accuracy or their sheer improbability.

The presenter does, incidentally, look uncannily like His late Most Christian Majesty King Francis I of France.

The video can be seen at Historian Reacts to The King (2019) and it is worth looking at the comments section in addition.

After having begun to write this post I then came across a second, similar, review of the presentation of the battle in The King which is perhaps a little less scathing than the first but does not pull its punches in pointing out the inaccuracies of the filmmakers. It can be seen at What "The King" Got Wrong about the Battle of AgincourtAgain the comments section is worth perusing.

A third review from History With Hilbert also looks at the accuracy of The King. It makes similar points about the film to the other two videos and particularly in respect of the depiction of the English strategy and deployment of soldiers. It also adds to the interpretation of the battle with a series of insightful points. It can be seen at How Accurate is the Battle of Agincourt in The King? and again both it and the appended comments draw attention to the degree of distance between historic fact or reality and modern cinematographic invention.

The Shadiversity site alao has a review of The King which draws out, with Australian forthrightness, the inaccuracies and implausibilties of the film. This can be seen at Netflix, The King, historical analysis review: CRIMES AGAINST MEDIEVAL REALISM

Amongst the various videos about Agincourt as a battle one by Douglas James is useful and can be seen at  Agincourt - Documentary | Battles That Changed HistoryThis sets the scene, discusses the events of the battle itself and seeks to provide a number of explanations for the English victory. I do think he may over-emphasise or simplify the differences in social structure between England and France in an attempt to explain the result of the battle. His well-made film has some scenes shot on the battlefield and also uses CGI imagery to reconstruct the action of the day.

If you want a longer video which discusses the reality of the battle and its interpretation then it is very worth while watching a discussion with Dr Toby Capwell about the myths and realities of Agincourt. The comments are also often insightful in addition to the conversation about the battle, and the video can be seen at AGINCOURT - Medieval Myth Busting

There is a shorter video with Toby Capwell talking about surviving examples of armour from the time of Agincourt and how they further illuminate the events of the day as recorded by written sources which can be seen at Agincourt: Myths and Misconceptions

Toby Capwell is also to be seen in conversation with Matt Easton about Agincourt and in particular the role of archers in the battle on a Scholagladiatoria video at Tobias Capwell (Wallace Collection) on Agincourt, armour & arrows (exhibition September). Part 2  This is, as the title indicates, one out of a series about the armour in use in 1415 and is as an independent piece, really excellent, offering a wide range of insights.

There is an excellent Gresham College lecture by Dr Helen Castor about the battle and its place in what we now call the Hundred Years War and also its place in our national consciousness which can be seen at Agincourt or Azincourt? Victory, Defeat and the War of 1415 - Dr Helen Castor

Sunday 24 October 2021

Knowledge of Markland

Following on from my previous post Markland may not figure much in contemporary knowledge of geography but the knowledge in the later middle ages of the existence of part of the coastlands of Canada or possibly the United States that the name denominated was perhaps more significant than we might think. The fact that there was land there was not just the preserve of Icelandic Sagas but survived in western Europe and entered the written record in perhaps surprising places. 

A recent study had shown that at least some of the Genoese were aware of such lands in the earlier fourteenth century and certainly by 1345. The Medievalists.net site has an article about this at Italians knew about North America in the 14th century, historian finds
I recall reading some years ago how in 1292 - exactly two centuries before Columbus - ships set sail westards from Seville. What happened to them is unknown, but that they had some idea of looking for land, and presumably trade, in the western Atlantic Ocean seems clear. 

By the mid-fifteenth century the Portuguese had found and taken over Madeira and were picking up rumours of the Island of Brazil.

Alongside this there is, of course, the solid evidence that the Papacy certainly knew about Greenland, which was the seat of a functioning Bishop, with a cathedral, until 1378 and of a titular one until 1537. By the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the increasing cooling of the environment had caused the abandonment of the European colony but the idea it was still part of Christendom survived. Wikipedia has articles about that at Garðar, Greenland and at Garðar Cathedral Ruins. It also has something about the decline of the two areas of occupancy in Western Settlement

Medieval people were curious about what lay beyond the world they knew or knew of. Some areas they believed were inaccessible because of the intense heat at the Equator, or were occupied by strange beings, as is pointed out in Columbus believed he would find 'blemmyes' and 'sciapods' – not people – in the New World

Nonetheless interest there was, as is evidenced by the popularity of the record of the travels of Sir John Mandeville, as discussed on History Extra at A knight's (tall) tale: why medieval traveller Sir John Mandeville was more popular than Marco Polo

A millennium in Newfoundland

The latest research into material evidence from the Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland has given a precise date for the presence there of Scandinavian colonists, and probably of their first arrival. With a precision that is also historically very tidy indeed the date was 1021, exactly a millennium ago. 

The dating is based on evidence from tree rings and relates to a specific event - the effect of solar flares in 992 twenty nine years earlier which can be vouched for in written evidence. Once that indicator is picked up in the timber it is easy to calculate the date timber was felled.

The BBC News site also has an account at Vikings settled in North America in 1021AD, study says

Saturday 23 October 2021

Soul Cakes

As we move towards the end of October the season of All Saints and All Souls approaches. Last year I wrote a piece for this time of the year to which I am linking again at Commemorating All Saints and All Souls

This year I will add to that, with its various links to online material, which includes a link to a video from the always informative Tasting History cookery site which has a video about baking Soul Cakes, which has full instructions and can be seen at Soul Cakes & Trick-or-Treating

The addition is a reposting of part of a recent article by Claudio Salvucci on the Liturgical Arts Journal - his whole article can be read at Thirteen Ideas for Restoring the Catholic Roots of Halloween

This particular part is about the tradition of baking and distributing Soul Cakes in return for prayers for the departed and includes two links to recipe articles. They also include more historical information about the various aspects of the observance of the feasts of All Saints and All Souls.

The extract from his article is as follows:

Bake Soul-cakes. Originally, begging for treats on Halloween had a spiritual purpose. Even long after the Reformation, English mothers would bake soul cakes and hand them out to children who promised to pray for the souls of that household. The traditional observance didn’t encourage children to celebrate gluttony, it taught them to repay kindness with acts of charity, to offer spiritual works of mercy for corporal ones. Recipes for this classic All Hallows dish can be found here and here.

So with just over a week to go, get baking!

A new porch for Angers Cathedral

Dezeen has a post about the proposal to erect a western porch to protect the polychrome decoration that has been revealed in recent years of the twelfth century west door of the cathedral at Angers. A medieval, thirteenth century, porch which had been added, was, regrettably demolished in 1807. Unfortunately there appears to be insufficient evidence to reconstruct that, so it has been decided to opt for a new design. This aims to complement the historic fabric of the cathedral.

This is featured in the article together with impressions of what it will look like. I am not sure what I think about the project myself. The comments are not very favourable but, unlike so many on internet sites, do actually carry the conversation forward about the design, and one actuaally gives a link to a 1699 drawing of the previous porch. 

I visited Angers in 1993 and it is a building very much in the regional style of the twelfth century, and very different from the ‘classic’ French cathedrals of the Idle de France and its more immediate neighbours. Angers cathedral is a link to the age of King Henry II and his family. It also holds the remains of Queen Margaret of Anjou who died there in 1482. To stand by her grave slab having visited places associated with her in England was definitely moving. I would certainly recommend Angers, with the cathedral, the thirteenth century castle, and its wondrous display of the late fourteenth century cycle of Apocalypse tapestries as things to see in an attractive and historic small city.

Thursday 21 October 2021

Winter in the later Middle Ages

As autumnal conditions  becomes increasingly dominant inevitably our thoughts turn towards the approach of winter and what it may bring, and to how we will keep warm and secure. The website Medievalists.net recently had an interesting article about life during the winter in the later Middle Ages. 

This draws attention to the effects caused by the so called “Little Ice age”, which were less those of appreciably colder temperatures in general but rather, as with the current pattern of global warming, sudden and extreme manifestations of fluctuations in the weather, be it snow or flood, freezing or drought.

The article can be read at A Medieval Peasants’ Winter

Tuesday 19 October 2021

A rather pious long weekend in Oxford

This past weekend gave me the opportunity to be pious over and beyond the norm. That freedom was something which I appreciated, and I think it is worth sharing with others to show the spiritual and liturgical riches that Oxford can afford.

The Forty Hours devotion at the Oxford Oratory provides the frame for this, It commenced with Mass on Friday evening at 6, and was then followed by Exposition and a vigil which I was able to join late evening, and in time for Sung Compline. As I aim to do at this annual celebration I was able to stay through the night and to participate in Matins at 5am and the usus antiquior Mass at 6am

After a substantial cooked breakfast at a nearby restaurant I watched some of the  new students of the University going off in their college crocodiles to Matriculation - I was pleased to see that not many of the young men had opted for the variants now permitted in terms of ties by the laxity now permitted by the University. This change is one that brings down the “red mist” on the Clever Boy …. those who do opt for black bow ties, black straight ties or no jacket under their gowns do I suspect conform to certain stereotypes. 

However to return to the life of piety…. at 
11am the Latin Mass Society had its annual Oxford Pilgrimage Mass at Blackfriars. This is in honour of the Oxford Martyrs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For several years now this has been in the traditional Dominican Rite sung by one of the Friars Preachers. Music was provided by the Newman Consort and by the Schola Abelis.

Afterwards I was talking to some of the students who had been in the congregation and who clearly had an appreciation of the traditional liturgy.

My arthritis meant that I was not up to joining the walking pilgrimage this year to Holywell and the site of the 1589 executions of the two priests - Bl. George Nichols and Bl. Richard Yaxley - and two laymen - Bl.Thomas Belson and Bl. Humphrey Pritchard - who were the focus of this year’s Pilgrimage. This concluded with Benediction in the church at Blackfriars.

Meanwhile the Forty Hours continued with a 5pm Musical Oratory themed around the Eucharist and the customary 6.30pm Mass for Peace. Afterwards Exposition resumed until midnight and concluding with sung Compline

On Sunday instead of the Forty Hours Mass of the Sacred Heart at the Oratory I attended the monthly midday usus antiquior Mass at SS Gregory and Augustine, which is on my proverbial doorstep. This was a sung celebration, led by a very capable cantor who is an acquaintance.

After a perusal of the church’s secondhand fundraising bookstall - and the inevitable purchase, on this occasion of G.R.Evans’ book on John Wyclif - I had lunch in the city whilst beginning to read my new acquisition. Then it was back to the Forty Hours and the opportunity to pray the rosary again in front of the Blessed Sacrament Exposed.

The 5pm Solemn Vespers was sung by the community and their fine choir, and concluded with a Procession and Benediction. The Forty Hours is always one of the highlights of the year at the Oxford Oratory, and the time one puts into it does seem to be repaid in terms of a sense of renewal and tranquility.

On Monday evening there was Solemn First Vespers for the Feast of St Frideswide after the 6pm Mass for St Luke. I think that this was first time that such a First Vespers has been celebrated at the Oratory in honour of the patroness of Oxford.

This evening there will be Mass at 6pm followed by Benediction in honour of St Frideswide.

For those who want to know more about St Frideswide I would recommend my friend Tony Morris’ splendidly illustrated blog post on Morris Oxford for today as an introduction and which can be viewed at Treacle Well

Quite apart from the spiritual benefits of such a weekend of serious liturgy it was good to see these parts of the annual cycle of events back in place after the last eighteen months of disruption.

Sunday 17 October 2021

The Battle of Neville’s Cross

Today is the 675th anniversary of the battle of Neville’s Cross just outside Durham in 1346.
Fought within sight of the cathedral it saw the clear defeat of the invading Scots army, with significant casualties and the capture of King David II. As an ally of King Philip VI of France he had invaded his brother-in-law King Edward III’s realm whilst he was on the campaign which had seen his invasion of Normandy in July and his victory at Crecy on August 26th.

As the Wikipedia account at Battle of Neville's Cross recounts an English army led by northern magnates commanded by Lord Neville and including both Lord Percy and Archbishop William Zouche of York defeated the Scots. King David, wounded in the face by two arrows, was captured and remained in English hands until 1357, and for the rest of his reign was no threat to England. It can be seen that he played a more shrewd hand in his dealings with the English in these years than some older historians had thought apparently offering the crown of Scotland, whilst knowing his Parliament would never agree to such a settlement.

 King David II and King Edward III in 1357
                        Image: Wikipedia 

Wikipedia has a useful biography of the Scottish king at David II of Scotland
This includes his somewhat troubled matrimonial life and a fine coinage portrait.

I posted a short note about him on this blog over a decade ago on the 640th anniversary of his death in February 1371. It can be seen at King David II

King Henry II lands in Ireland

Today is the 850th anniversary of the landing of King Henry II in Ireland and can be seen as the beginning of his, and his successors, Lordship of Ireland which was to become in 1542 the Kingdom of Ireland. Its symbolic significance led to a painting of King Henry II receiving the homage of the Irish Kings and chiefs being included in the late eighteenth century scheme of decoration of the ceiling of St Patrick’s Hall in the State Apartments of Dublin Castle.

The background and course of the Norman invasion of Ireland is set out by Wikipedia at Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland

There is an article on the Erenow website about the arrival of King Henry by the well-known historian of the Angevin rulers John Gillingham, who has also published works on medieval Anglo-Irish relations, which can be read at 1171: Henry II invades Ireland - The Great Turning Points of British History

The same site has a good summary of the King and his governance at King Henry II, Britain and Ireland, 1154–89 - The Struggle for Mastery: Britain 1066-1284

Wikipedia has a detailed discussion of the 1155 Papal Bull Laudabiliter which apparently gave authorisation for King Henry II to rule Ireland, and the debate about the authenticity of the text, at Laudabiliter

Recent decades have seen something of a revision of the interpretation of the history of Ireland before 1534 or 1541 ( never mind for later centuries ) and, an ever important theme in Irish historiography, in the use of politically charged terminology suc as “Irish”, “colonial”, “Home Rule” when applied to the medieval centuries and to the whole pre-1800 history of the island. For me reading the work of Steven G. Ellis Ireland in the Age of the Tudors1447-1603: English Expansion and the End of Gaelic Rule, in the Longman History of Ireland was an eye-opener to this process and to how one can view medieval Ireland. It is a book I highly recommend. I know Prof. Ellis’s ideas do not meet with universal acceptance in Ireland but I think he and his school do offer a much more constructive interpretation of Irish history as part of a wider picture of north west Europe at the time.

In this centenary year of partition and with the latest moves over the Northern Ireland Protocol it does seem appropriate to urge people across Ireland and Britain, and those far beyond, to look at the historical evidence and its interpretation of Irish history rather than, as seems so often to happen, recycling nineteenth and early twentieth century views, themselves shaped by political debates that are now themselves part of that complex historical process.

Friday 15 October 2021

The unfortunate fate of the seventh Earl of Derby

Today is the 370th anniversary of the beheading of James Stanley, seventh Earl of Derby at Bolton after his capture and court martial following the Battle of Worcester on September 3rd that year.

James, Earl of Derby
From a family portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyke

Image: Wikipedia 

To some he is seen as a Royalist martyr, to others as one of the men responsible for an outrage recalled as the Sack of Bolton in May 1644 - and hence it was the place chosen for his execution.

The scale of the events at Bolton and the loss of life that day is unclear - record and rumour do not agree. This is, of course, often the case in civil conflicts. Parliamentarian pamphleteers made the most of the attack on the Puritan inclined town and laid the blame on the Earl and his overall commander Prince Rupert - a figure they were ever keen to demonise. As C.V. Wedgwood points out in The King’s War the Royalist attack which became known as the Sack of Brentford in 1642 - for which see Battle of Brentford (1642) - was equated by Parliamentarian writers with the devastating  Sack of Magdeburg in the Thirty Years War in 1631…..’False News’ anyone?

There is a biography of the Earl of Derby on Wikipedia at James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby and that site also has an account of the events of 1644 at Storming of Bolton

An article from a local newspaper discusses where exactly the Earl spent his last night as well as stories of his ghost at Earl of Derby did NOT spend his last night at Man and Scythe

The Earl was also Lord of Mann, the island lordship which his family had held from the beginning of the fifteenth century. Earlier this year there was a report about what appears to be a memorial ring commemorating the Earl which was discovered on the Isle of Man and which can be seen at 370-year-old gold ring may have honored beheaded earl

The Isle was not and is not part of the Kingdom of England, so in 1660 the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion did not apply there. As a consequence the Earl’s principal opponent in his fiefdom himself paid the ultimate penalty for rebellion against the Stanley family when they, like the King, came into their own again.