Tuesday, March 31, 2015

8 things you (probably) didn’t know about Magna Carta

King John signs Magna Carta. © GL Archive / Alamy
History Extra
Magna Carta, which this year celebrates its 800th anniversary, is perhaps the best-known document in world history. Yet much of it is either misunderstood or clouded in myth. Here, Nicholas Vincent, a professor of medieval history at the University of East Anglia, reveals some lesser-known facts about the iconic document…

Whenever and wherever it is exhibited, thousands queue to view what Lord Denning described as “the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot”. King John, the monarch who put his seal to Magna Carta, is widely regarded as the worst king in English history precisely because it was his particular acts of tyranny that led his barons to demand the charter. But did you know…


1) Magna Carta never once refers to the concept of democracy

Its principal beneficiary, named at the beginning of its opening clause, is not the freemen of England or the barons and knights, but ‘God’. The charter was granted first and foremost to God in order that the king could not, as he might have done with a charter granted to any of his subjects, simply repeal the charter by his own arbitrary will. Gifts once made to God could not lightly be rescinded.


2) In later centuries, it was argued that Magna Carta lay at the roots of such principles of English justice as Habeas Corpus and the jury system, but Habeas Corpus is a 15th-century invention, devised 200 years after Magna Carta…

… and only incorporated into Act of Parliament in the 17th century. The jury goes unmentioned in Magna Carta, which speaks merely of trial ‘by peers, and by the law of the land’. In any case, as established in the 12th and 13th centuries, juries were not supposed to decide guilt or innocence, but instead to report (‘to present’) crimes in court, with judgment delivered by the king's justices.


3) Far from establishing equal justice for all, Magna Carta draws clear distinctions between classes, nationalities and peoples

The charter distinguished freemen (a minority of the population) from the peasant majority. Knights are distinguished from barons, and barons from the even higher ranks of the earls.
Individual clauses of the charter distinguish between the laws of England and the laws of Wales. Two clauses call for the expulsion from England of all foreign knights and soldiers. Another imposes limits on the profits that that could be made from Jewish moneylending. Another clause, still in theory operative into the 19th century, placed a ban upon any woman accusing a man of murder, save in a case where the murder victim was the woman's husband.


4) As the king who granted Magna Carta, King John is sometimes described as author of the oldest legislation still in force in England. In reality, the charter sealed by John at Runnymede was a dead letter, repudiated by king and church within a matter of only 10 weeks of its issue

The version of Magna Carta received in English law was that issued a decade later, in 1225, by King John's son, Henry III. This represents a heavily abridged version of Magna Carta, shorn of more than a third of the text granted at Runnymede.
Out went various clauses that the king considered most obnoxious, including those establishing a committee of 25 barons to sit in judgment over the king. Out too went the clauses limiting Jewish enterprise and demanding the expulsion of foreigners. Most surprisingly, out went clause 14 of the 1215 charter, which in theory established the principal of ‘No taxation without representation’ by calling for a representative assembly (a forerunner to parliament) to assent to all significant new taxes.

A view through a magnifying glass of part of an original Magna Carta from the issue made in 1300 by King Edward l to the borough of Sandwich in Kent, which was earlier this year discovered in the archives at Kent County Council's Kent History and Library Centre in Maidstone. (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

5) Even the text of the 1225 Magna Carta as received into English law was modified towards the end of the 13th century – when recited from a faulty copy – and it was reissued by the ministers of Edward I

It is this reissue that, technically speaking, became the official law of the land. Only three clauses of it remain in force today. The remaining 34 have been repealed as redundant, as a result of acts of parliament from the 1820s onwards.
Of the three clauses that still survive, one grants freedom to the church (in theory, at least, placing the church outside the normal operations of English law). The second recognises the special liberties of the City of London and other towns (no doubt of comfort to those who believe that the City and its institutions should remain self-governing oligarchies).
The third, and easily the most famous, forbids arbitrary arrest and demands trial by peers and the laws of the land. However, no definition is supplied either for the concept of ‘peers’ (ie equals) or ‘the laws of the land’ (in 1225, in most cases still unwritten). From the 1780s onwards, the newly independent United States of America looked to the 1225 Magna Carta as a guarantee of their liberties and freedoms. Beginning with South Carolina in 1836, and ending with North Dakota as recently as 1943, some 17 of the individual states voted fully to incorporate Magna Carta 1225 within their statute books. As a result, far more of Magna Carta survives in American than in English law.

6) As early as the 1290s, large parts of Magna Carta were considered either unenforceable or archaic

The charter was last renewed and reissued, county by county, in 1300. Thereafter, kings of England made regular promises to abide by the charter, but without reissuing it clause by clause. Magna Carta itself was transformed from practical law into political totem. It is as totem and symbol that it enjoyed greatest significance, underpinning the attempts by 17th-century parliamentarians, 18th-century revolutionaries, and 19th-century constitutionalists to argue that the sovereign authority, and ultimately the state itself, must abide by the rule of law.

7) Visitors to England expect to view the ‘original’ Magna Carta in one or other of the great national collections of manuscripts, most often in the British Library in London. In reality, the charter sealed by King John at Runnymede has long ago vanished

What we have instead are 23 original exemplars, each of them hand written for delivery to a particular county or town. Only four of these come from the issue of 1215 (today preserved in the archives of Lincoln and Salisbury cathedrals, and in two instances in the British Library).
Far more survive from the subsequent reissues: a single original from 1216; four from 1217; four from 1225; four from 1297, and at least six from 1300. As a result, no less than a dozen institutional collections possess original Magna Cartas – two of them outside the United Kingdom. A 1297 Magna Carta was sold to Australia (in 1953) and another to the United States (in 1983). The American original, resold in New York in 2007, fetched $21.3 million – the highest price ever paid at auction for a single sheet of parchment.

8) Despite the immense fame of Magna Carta, many aspects of the document have been little studied

In particular, between 1810 and very recent times, no attempt was made to assemble a list of its originals, let alone of the many hundreds of copies that survive. Work undertaken over the past few years has revealed many new things (for the absolutely latest discoveries see the website magnacartaresearch.org).
As recently as December 2014, an entirely unknown original of the 1300 Magna Carta was brought to light in the archives of the borough of Sandwich in Kent. At much the same time, researchers proved that one of the originals of the 1215 Magna Carta – today in the British Library – previously supposed to have come from Dover Castle, in fact originated in the archives of Canterbury Cathedral.
Documents in the National Archives have revealed that in 1941 Winston Churchill seriously entertained the possibility of gifting Lincoln Cathedral's Magna Carta to the people of America. As late as 1976, a similar proposal was raised – this time by Winston Churchill's grandson, and in respect to one of the British Library's Magna Cartas – intended as a ‘centre-piece’ for British celebrations of the bicentennial of America's declaration of Independence.
Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy is on show at the British Library, London, from 13 March–1 September 2015. For more information, and to book tickets, visit www.bl.uk

Egyptians Brewed Beer in Tel Aviv 5,000 Years Ago

Megan Gannon
Live Science

beer basin
This is a fragment of a clay basin that would have been used by the ancient Egyptians to produce beer.
Credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Tel Aviv's reputation as a party city for expats might have started 5,000 years ago.
During the Bronze Age, Egyptians were making beer in what is today downtown Tel Aviv, new archaeological evidence suggests.
When archaeologists were conducting salvage excavations ahead of construction on new office buildings along Hamasger Street, they found 17 ancient pits that were used to store produce, according to an announcement from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
These pits held Egyptian-style pottery that dated back to the Early Bronze Age I, a period that lasted from 3500 B.C. to 3000 B.C. [In Photos: Early Bronze Age Chariot Burial]
"On the basis of previously conducted excavations in the region, we knew there is an Early Bronze Age site here, but this excavation is the first evidence we have of an Egyptian occupation in the center of Tel Aviv at that time," Diego Barkan, an archaeologist who was conducting the excavation on behalf of the IAA, said in the statement.
bronze dagger at excavation site
A corroded, 6,000-year-old bronze dagger was also found during the urban excavation.
Credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
Barkan and his colleagues found hundreds of pottery fragments, including broken pieces of large ceramic basins traditionally used to prepare beer — a staple of the Egyptian diet.

The clay that was used to create these basins had been mixed with straw or other organic materials as strengthening agents. This method wasn't used in the local pottery industry in Israel, but straw-tempered vessels have been found before at other Egyptian sites — notably, the Egyptian administrative building that was excavated at En Besor in southern Israel, Barkan explained.

"This is also the northernmost evidence we have of an Egyptian presence in the Early Bronze Age I," Barkan said. "Until now, we were only aware of an Egyptian presence in the northern Negev and southern coastal plain, whereby the northernmost point of Egyptian occupation occurred in Azor. Now we know that they also appreciated what the Tel Aviv region had to offer and that they too knew how to enjoy a glass of beer, just as Tel Avivians do today."

The archaeologists report that they also found 5,000-year-old bones from wild boar, sheep and goat at the site, as well as a bronze dagger and stone tools dating back 6,000 years, during the Chalcolithic period.

History Trivia - Bernard of Clairvaux urges the necessity of a Second Crusade.

March 31

 307 after divorcing his wife Minervina, Constantine married Fausta, the daughter of the retired Roman Emperor Maximian, but murdered  her in 326. 

1146 Bernard of Clairvaux preached his famous sermon in a field at Vézelay, urging the necessity of a Second Crusade.

1657 Parliament offered Oliver Cromwell the title of king in the Humble Petition and Advice, but he rejected the title.






Monday, March 30, 2015

History Trivia - Henry VIII divorces his first wife, Catherine of Aragon

March 30

1191 Celestine III elected Pope. During his pontificate, he confirmed the order of Teutonic Knights.

1603 The Nine Years' War between England and Irish rebel Hugh O'Neill ended with the surrender of the Irish.

1533 Henry VIII divorced his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mr. Chuckles checks out an American In Britain, Barb Taub, while stirring the Wizard's Cauldron

The Wizard says:

Today, in the ominous, awe inspiring shadow of the Burj Khalifa, here in downtown Dubai, I meet Barb Taub. YA writer, reviewer, commentator and classic American wit in the Mary Tyler Moore mould. 
Barb now lives and writes in the Green and Pleasant. I met her through the brilliant Rosie Amber’s review site, where she reviewed my novel The Night Porter.  
Whatever grade Barb gave TNP was less important than the stunning quality of the review itself, like a newspaper article, and I swiftly sent the Goblins out to research her.
I discovered she’s a writer (as you will see of Mature YA novels) and very popular in this little corner of our vast and sprawling Indie world. I also discovered she’s a superhero buff, which etches her name in indelible ink in my personal cool book.  Picking up the Wizphone, I tracked her down as she walked the dogs on a freezing  spring day somewhere up North. Here’s what she had to say. 

History Trivia - Battle near Towton Field - Queen Margaret defeated

March 29

 1461 Battle near Towton Field, death toll about 33,000 in the deadliest battle of the War of the Roses, where Edward of York defeated Queen Margaret to become King Edward IV of England. 

1561 Santorio Santorio, the first physician to employ instruments of precision to medical practice, was born.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A handbook to shopping in ancient Rome

A fruit seller displays his wares on a wooden table, in this bas-relief from the second century AD. (Bridgeman Art Library)
If you fancied some serious retail therapy in the ancient world then, as Claire Holleran reveals, the streets of Rome were the place to be.
This article was first published in the Christmas 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine 
History Extra

Ancient Rome was a cosmopolitan city, drawing in people and products from across the Mediterranean world and beyond. By the late first century BC, there were as many as one million inhabitants in Rome, an urban population figure not reached again in the western world until London in around 1800.
Like most urban residents, the people of Rome relied on retailers to provide them with food, clothing and other goods. Our ancient evidence points to a thriving retail trade in the city and, for any ancient visitor, the sheer number of retailers and shoppers must have been one of the most striking aspects of the Roman cityscape.
Retailers were found in the busiest areas of the city. Small shops and workshops lined the main thoroughfares, spilling out over their thresholds into the streets and colonnades. The poet Martial remarked that until the emperor Domitian issued an edict banning this practice, Rome looked like one big shop.
Market traders, street sellers and ambulant hawkers also tended to be found in central areas. They clustered around temples, bathhouses, forums, circuses, amphitheatres and theatres, attracted by the commercial opportunities offered by large gatherings of people. Sellers at temples offered votive offerings such as flower garlands, while those at the amphitheatre may have sold gladiatorial programmes of the type mentioned by Cicero in the mid-first century BC. Perishable items that could be eaten straight away were also a common sight on Rome’s streets. Prepared foods such as bread, hot sausages, pastries, and chickpeas were perfect for a busy Roman on the run.
Reliefs and paintings, drawn mainly from Pompeii and from Rome’s port city of Ostia, are our best evidence for the appearance of Roman stalls. Temporary stalls are visible in a painting (shown right) from Pompeii of a riot in its amphitheatre – a depiction of a historical event that the historian Tacitus tells us took place in AD 59, when the residents of the nearby city of Nuceria descended on the doomed town. In the foreground of the picture, we can see stalls set up under awnings strung between trees or on stakes in the ground. Painted messages on the outside of the amphitheatre also record the location of stalls.
Another Pompeian painting shows a tableau of everyday events in the forum. Scattered within scenes showing legal judgements, the corporal punishment of school pupils, and people chatting and reading public notices, we can make out traders hawking their wares.
Some have their goods lying on the floor around them – such as a man selling metal vessels, or a hot-food trader standing by a large cauldron suspended over a fire.

A painting showing a riot in Pompeii’s amphitheatre in AD 59. The stalls of traders who operated around the building are visible in the foreground. (Bridgeman Art Library)

Caged animals

Others have more elaborate sales areas. A shoe seller sets out wooden benches for his customers and marks out his place of sale with curtains hung between columns. Bread and vegetable vendors display their wares on wooden tables and in baskets on the ground.
A marble relief from Ostia shows a vegetable seller with a large basket and a stall made up of a wooden trestle table, while another relief (shown on page 30) depicts a woman stood behind cages containing her stock of chickens and hares. On the counter are two bowls of fruit, probably containing figs, and a barrel containing snails. There are even two monkeys on the stall to attract and entertain customers. Other sellers were more mobile, carrying their wares on trays or in baskets around their necks, as shown in a funerary relief from Narbonne. Some pictures show retailers holding one hand aloft as though addressing a crowd, while the other hand touches their produce, inviting customers to do the same.
Not only were Roman retailers highly visible, they were also very audible, disturbing the residents of the city with their distinctive sales cries. Seneca, for example, complains about the hawkers who frequent the bathhouse below his apartment in first-century Rome, describing the noise of the “pastry-cooks with their varied cries, the sausage dealer and the confectioner and all the vendors of food from the cookshops selling their wares”.
Other writers liken the poor poetry or speeches of their competitors or enemies to the shouts of retailers, the proverbial ‘fishwives’ of their day. Martial likens the wit of a friend to that of a “vendor of boiled chickpeas”, or the slaves of the fishmongers, or the “bawling cook who hawks smoking sausages round stuffy bistros”.
Our ancient literary sources are written by upper-class Romans who almost universally condemn retail as a deceitful practice and repeatedly call the quality of goods into question. Galen is particularly scathing, claiming that some unscrupulous retailers had been known to use human flesh in dishes in place of pork. He observes that human and pig flesh must taste and smell remarkably similar, since the unfortunate customers were unable to tell the difference!
A fifth-century AD author also alleges that some retailers displayed food items such as eggs and onions floating in glass bowls of water so that they looked larger than their actual size.

Rome’s December shopping spree

The Christmas markets now so popular in British towns and cities may be a German import, but December markets were a tradition in ancient Rome too. Towards the end of the month, Romans celebrated the festival of Saturnalia in honour of the god Saturn, a time of year that the poet Catullus called “the best of days”. The toga was discarded in favour of more comfortable clothes, time was spent eating and drinking, slaves were allowed their liberty, at least temporarily, and friends exchanged presents.
Traditionally, gifts took the form of sigilla, small clay figurines. These gave the market its name, the sigillaria. Traders sold gifts from temporary stalls or canvas booths in the Campus Martius, the ‘Field of Mars’, in the centre of what would later become the medieval city.
We know that in the early empire the market was held in the Porticus Argonautarum, built by the general Agrippa in 25 BC. The satirist Juvenal writes that women, always anxious to keep up with their neighbours, demanded crystal vases and diamond rings from the stalls in this market.
Just as today, the December markets must have added to the holiday atmosphere in the city, with adults giving children money to spend on treats. This tradition allowed Emperor Tiberius to dismiss his nephew Claudius’s political ambitions by giving him money to spend at the sigillaria market rather than political office.

This detail from a third-century AD floor mosaic shows three slaves with a torch during the festival of Saturnalia. One poet called this time of year “the best of days”. (AKG Images)

Selling to survive

Men and women mixed freely in the Roman retail environment, working as both buyers and sellers. There was, however, some economic segregation. On the one hand, street traders sold everyday food at low prices and probably catered primarily for customers of relatively limited means. Many of these traders would probably have themselves been poor, retailing on a small scale in order to survive.
On the other hand, wealthy shoppers who wanted to buy food to impress their dinner guests could visit the macellum, a purpose-built luxury food market. Here large single fish were auctioned off to the highest bidder. Prized items, such as red mullet, could command incredibly high prices. Bankers would even have been on hand to lend money to those who could not cover the costs of their bids. The imperial biographer Suetonius records the disgust of Emperor Tiberius that three mullets went for 30,000 sesterces – more than 30 times the annual wage of a legionary soldier.
Alongside fish, shoppers could also find meat for sale, some of which was sourced from animal sacrifices (Christian shoppers had to try to avoid this). Other Roman delicacies available from luxury markets included songbirds, dormice and snails.
The wealthy were visited by retailers in their own homes, sometimes speculatively. Ovid regarded this as a nuisance for the lover, since, he complained, sellers always seem to come when your mistress is in a buying mood, beseeching you to shower her with gifts. And claiming to have no money wasn’t always a defence, as the seller would often take a credit note. Poets also joked about the sexual threat posed by retailers calling on elite women desperate to relieve the boredom of their domestic lives.
The retail trade was one of the most visible sectors of the urban economy in ancient Rome, with retailers locked in a fierce competition to relieve customers of their money. In this sense at least, Rome was a very modern metropolis.
Claire Holleran is lecturer in classics and ancient history at the University of Exeter.  

History Trivia - Paris sacked by Viking raiders

March 28

 37 Roman Emperor Caligula accepted the titles of the Principate, entitled to him by the Senate.

845 Paris was sacked by Viking raiders, probably under Ragnar Lodbrok, who collected a huge ransom in exchange for leaving.

1515 St. Teresa of Ávila was born. Teresa was a mystic, a reformer of the Carmelite order, and author of spiritual literature. She was the first woman to be named a doctor of the Church.

Friday, March 27, 2015

History Trivia - Charles I, King of England, Scotland & Ireland, ascends the English throne

March 27

1599 Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex and a favorite of Elizabeth I, became Lord Lieutenant General of Ireland during the Nine Years War. However, he was unsuccessful in defeating the rebel forces and returned to England in disgrace.

1625 Charles I, King of England, Scotland & Ireland, ascended to the English throne.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

History Trivia - William Caxton prints his translation of Aesop's Fables

March 26

 752 Pope Stephen (II) III elected; he was the first sovereign of the Papal States, crowned Pepin as King of the Franks, corresponded with the Emperor Constantine on the subject of the restoration of the sacred images, restored many of the ancient churches of the city, and built hospitals specifically for the poor near St. Peter's church where he is buried.

1484 William Caxton printed his translation of Aesop's Fables.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Scribbler Tales Volume Three now available on iTunes

Written by: Mary Ann Bernal
Narrated by: Roberto Scarlato
Length: 1 hr and 10 mins 
Unabridged Audiobook
When a highly classified schematic of a prototype engine is stolen, the evidence points to an inside job, in "Hidden Lies". In "Nightmare", Melanie's childhood demons carry over into adulthood when she returns to her ancestral home. Detective Newport races against time to apprehend a killer targeting prosecuting attorneys in "Payback". "The Night Stalker" is not a figment of Pamela's imagination as she tries to convince the police that her life is in danger.

Purchase on iTunes


History Trivia - Ptolemy XII, King of Egypt and brother of Cleopatra, drowns in the Nile

March 25

47 BC Ptolemy XII, King of Egypt and brother of Cleopatra, drowned in the Nile, probably with an assist by Julius Caesar, who thereby made Cleopatra queen.

421 City of Venice founded.

1199 Richard I was wounded by a crossbow bolt while fighting France which led to his death on April 6.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

5 things you probably didn’t know about the Plantagenets

History Extra

It was one of the most violent periods in history, famed for the Hundred Years’ War, the Peasants’ Revolt, and the beginning of the Wars of the Roses. Yet through the chaos of the Middle Ages, the Plantagenets rose to seize control of England.
This article was first published in November 2014

The dynasty ruled England and much of France during the medieval period - monarchs included Henry II, Henry III, Edward II and the boy king Richard II - and their hatred, revenge, jealousy and ambition transformed history.
Here, writing for History Extra, historian Dan Jones reveals five things you probably didn’t know about the Plantagenets…

1) The Plantagenets weren’t just kings of England

As the French-sounding name suggests, the Plantagenet dynasty originated across the channel, and both in blood and outlook they were decidedly continental. At various times Plantagenet princes ruled – or claimed to rule – Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine, Aquitaine, Brittany, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Castile, Sicily and France.
In the 15th century Henry VI was actually crowned king of the French in Paris. The family maintained close links with the Holy Land through the crusades. This was a truly international project. Only after 200 years did English become the official language of law and parliament, and even by the time of Chaucer, most sophisticated courtiers still spoke and corresponded in French.
Despite this, however, the Plantagenets laid down the foundations of England’s laws, borders, language, public architecture and national mythology.

2) Bloodshed was an occupational hazard

Even before the bigotry of the Reformation descended, this was still a very violent age: Henry II’s great quarrel with Thomas Becket ended with the archbishop chopped down by four knights and his brains scooped out on the floor of a cathedral; the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 saw another archbishop beheaded in the street, and when Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, lost the battle of Evesham in 1265, he was hacked to pieces and his genitals were stuck in his mouth.
Edward II’s reign dissolved into an orgy of slaughter that ended with the king being forced from the throne and murdered, while his close ally Hugh Despenser the Younger was hanged, drawn and quartered in front of the queen, who feasted while she watched the bloodthirsty show.


3) They had to deal with drone warfare

We may associate the unmanned deployment of death from above with 21st-century US special forces, but drone warfare has a far longer history than that. During the 13th century there was a spate of devastating clashes between kings and their barons – the worst being a long-running feud between Henry III and de Montfort. In the course of all this, records show that the sheriff of Essex plotted to attack London using cockerels who would have firebombs attached to their feet.
There were a few basic flaws with this plan: cockerels cannot fly for very long distances, and feathers are somewhat flammable. So in the end there was no cockerel-led blitz. But it was an enterprising use of military technology, which is worth applauding for sheer chutzpah if nothing else.


4) You didn’t have to call them ‘your majesty’

Not until Richard II’s reign, anyway. The usual forms of address for a king for much of the Plantagenet era were ‘your highness’ and ‘your Grace’. Richard, however, had a grander and more elaborate vision of kingship than many of his predecessors, and he introduced the terms ‘your majesty’ and ‘your high majesty’ to the court vocabulary.
During his later reign, there are vivid accounts of the king sitting in splendor on his throne after dinner and glaring around the room at his assembled courtiers. Whomever his gaze rested upon was to fall to their knees in humble appreciation of his royal awesomeness.
Eventually this wore rather thin, and in 1399 Richard was deposed by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, who took the throne as Henry IV and abruptly ended the unbroken succession of Plantagenet kings that had continued since the 12th century.

5) There’s a bit of Plantagenet in all of us

Well, most of us, anyway. According to calculations made by Ian Mortimer in his biography of Edward III, somewhere between 80 and 95 per cent of the living English-descended population of England shares some ancestry with the Plantagenet kings of the 14th century and before. In other words, there’s a pretty good chance that you are, on some level, a Plantagenet.
This is not, I should say, a mandate to start slaughtering archbishops; hanging, drawing and quartering your enemies or sticking your wife in a dungeon. But it’s pretty cool, all the same.

In case you missed it... Treachery: what really brought down Richard III

History Extra

David Hipshon, whose book on the controversial Yorkist monarch is out now, has a new perspective on the reason for Richard’s death at the battle of Bosworth in 1485
This article was first published online in April 2010

On 22 August 1485, in marshy fields near the village of Sutton Cheney in Leicestershire, Richard III led the last charge of knights in English history. A circlet of gold around his helmet, his banners flying, he threw his destiny into the hands of the god of battles.
Among the astonished observers of this glittering panoply of horses and steel galloping towards them were Sir William Stanley and his brother Thomas, whose forces had hitherto taken no part in the action. Both watched intently as Richard swept across their front and headed towards Henry Tudor, bent only on eliminating his rival.
As the king battled his way through Henry’s bodyguard, killing his standard bearer with his own hand and coming within feet of Tudor himself, William Stanley made his move. Throwing his forces at the King’s back he betrayed him and had him hacked him down. Richard, fighting manfully and crying, “Treason! Treason!”, was butchered in the bloodstained mud of Bosworth Field by a man who was, ostensibly at least, there to support him.
Historians have been tempted to see Stanley’s treachery as merely the last act in the short and brutal drama that encompassed the reign of the most controversial king in English history. Most agree that Richard had murdered his two nephews in the Tower of London and that this heinous crime so shocked the realm, even in those medieval days, that his demise was all but assured. The reason he lost the battle of Bosworth, they say, was because he had sacrificed support through this illegal coup.
But hidden among the manuscripts in the duchy of Lancaster records in the National Archives, lies a story that provides an insight into the real reason why Thomas, Lord Stanley, and his brother William betrayed Richard at Bosworth during the Wars of the Roses. The records reveal that for more than 20 years before the battle, a struggle for power in the hills of Lancashire had lit a fuse which exploded at Bosworth.
Land grab
The Stanleys had spent most of the 15th century building up a powerful concentration of estates in west Lancashire, Cheshire and north Wales. As their power grew they came into conflict with gentry families in east Lancashire who resented their acquisitive and relentless encroachments into their lands.
One such family were the Harringtons of Hornby. Unlike their Stanley rivals the Harringtons sided with the Yorkists in the Wars of the Roses and remained staunchly loyal. Unfortunately, at the battle of Wakefield in 1460, disaster struck. The Duke of York was killed and with him Thomas Harrington and his son John.
The Stanleys managed, as ever, to miss the battle. They were very keen, however, to pick up the pieces of the Harrington inheritance and take their seat at Hornby, a magnificent castle that dominated the valley of the River Lune in Stanley country.
When John Harrington had been killed at Wakefield the only heirs he left behind were two small girls. They had the legal right to inherit the castle at Hornby, but this would pass to whomever they married. Stanley immediately sought to take them as his wards and to marry them as soon as possible to his only son and a nephew.
John Harrington’s brother James was equally determined to stop him. James argued that his brother had died before their father at Wakefield and so he himself, as the oldest surviving son, had become the heir, not John’s daughters. To make good his claim he took possession of the girls, and fortified Hornby against the Stanleys.
Unfortunately for Harrington, King Edward IV – striving to bring order to a country devastated by civil strife – simply could not afford to lose the support of a powerful regional magnate, and awarded the castle to Stanley.
However, this was by no means the end of the matter. James Harrington refused to budge and held on to Hornby, and his nieces, regardless. What’s more, the records show that friction between the two families escalated to alarming proportions during the 1460s.
In the archive of the letters patent and warrants, issued under the duchy of Lancaster seal, we can see the King struggling – and failing – to maintain order in the region. While James Harrington fortified his castle and dug his heels in, Stanley refused to allow his brother, Robert Harrington, to exercise the hereditary offices of bailiff in Blackburn and Amounderness, which he had acquired by marriage. Stanley falsely indicted the Harringtons, packed the juries and attempted to imprison them.
Revolt and rebellion
This virtual state of war became a real conflict in 1469, when, in a monumental fit of pique, the Earl of Warwick – the most powerful magnate in the land, with massive estates in Yorkshire, Wales and the Midlands – rebelled against his cousin Edward IV.
The revolt saw the former king, the hapless Henry VI, being dragged out of the Tower and put back on the throne. Stanley, who had married Warwick’s sister, Eleanor Neville, stood to gain by joining the rebellion.
There were now two kings in England – and Edward was facing a bitter battle to regain control. In an attempt to secure the northwest, he placed his hopes on his younger brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III.
This had immediate consequences for Stanley and Harrington, for Richard displaced the former as forester of Amounderness, Blackburn and Bowland, and appointed the latter as his deputy steward in the forest of Bowland, an extensive region to the south of Hornby. Even worse, from Stanley’s point of view, the castle of Hornby was in Amounderness, where Richard now had important legal rights.
During the rebellion Stanley tried to dislodge James once and for all by bringing a massive cannon called ‘Mile Ende’ from Bristol to blast the fortifications. The only clue we have as to why this failed is a warrant issued by Richard, dated 26 March 1470, and signed “at Hornby”.
It would appear that the 17-year-old Richard had taken sides and was helping James Harrington in his struggle against Stanley. This is hardly surprising as James’s father and brother had died with Richard’s father at Wakefield and the Harringtons were actively helping Edward get his throne back. In short, it seems that the Harringtons had a royal ally in Richard, who could challenge the hegemony of the Stanleys and help them resist his ambitions.
The Harringtons’ support for Edward was to prove of little immediate benefit when the King finally won his throne back after defeating and killing Warwick at the battle of Barnet and executing Henry VI.
Grateful he may have been, but the harsh realities of the situation forced Edward to appease the Stanleys because they could command more men than the Harringtons and, in a settlement of 1473, James Harrington was forced to surrender Hornby.
Richard ensured that he received the compensation of the nearby property of Farleton, and also land in west Yorkshire, but by the time Edward died in 1483 Stanley had still not handed over the lucrative and extensive rights that Robert Harrington claimed in Blackburn and Amounderness.
A family affair
One thing, however, had changed. The leading gentry families in the region had found a ‘good lord’ in Richard. He had been made chief steward of the duchy in the north in place of Warwick and used his power of appointment to foster members of the gentry and to check the power of Stanley.
Only royal power could do this and Richard, as trusted brother of the King, used it freely. The Dacres, Huddlestons, Pilkingtons, Ratcliffes and Parrs, all related by marriage to the Harringtons, had received offices in the region and saw Richard, not Stanley, as their lord.
When Richard took the throne he finally had the power to do something for James Harrington. The evidence shows that he planned to reopen the question of the Hornby inheritance.
This alone would have been anathema to Stanley but it was accompanied by an alarming series of appointments in the duchy of Lancaster. John Huddleston, a kinsman of the Harringtons, was made sheriff of Cumberland, steward of Penrith and warden of the west march. John Pilkington, brother-in-law of Robert Harrington, was steward of Rochdale and became Richard III’s chamberlain; Richard Ratcliffe, Robert Harrington’s wife’s uncle, was the King’s deputy in the west march and became sheriff of Westmorland. Stanley felt squeezed, his power threatened and his influence diminished.
With Richard at Bosworth were a close-knit group of gentry who served in the royal household: men like John Huddleston, Thomas Pilkington and Richard Ratcliffe. They were men whom Richard could trust, but they were also the very men who were instrumental in reducing Stanley’s power in the northwest.
By Richard’s side, possibly carrying his standard, was James Harrington. When Richard III sped past the Stanleys at Bosworth Field he presented them with an opportunity too tempting to refuse.
During the 1470s Richard had become the dominant power in the north as Edward’s lieutenant. He served his brother faithfully and built up a strong and stable following. The leading gentry families could serve royal authority without an intermediary. The losers in this new dispensation were the two northern magnates, Henry Percy and Thomas Stanley.
Richard challenged their power and at Bosworth they got their revenge. When Richard rode into battle, with Harrington by his side, loyalty, fidelity and trust rode with him. Like the golden crown on Richard’s head they came crashing down to earth.

Richard's chivalry: the gallant exploits that killed a king
The fateful charge of knights at Bosworth may have been a risky strategy but it chimed perfectly with Richard III’s concept of himself: the chivalric ‘good lord’ fighting his enemies with his faithful companions at his side.
Richard’s father, the Duke of York, who was adopted as a four year-old orphan by the great warrior-king Henry V, evinced an old-fashioned, almost archaic, concept of chivalry. He had been killed when Richard was only eight but had left a powerful impression on the young boy.
In 1476 Richard presided over a solemn ceremony, redolent with pageantry and symbolism, in the reburial of his father at the family seat at Fotheringhay. An endowment of four priests at Queen’s College Cambridge specified that they should pray “for the soule of the right high and mighty prince of blessed memorie Richard duke of Yorke”. Richard III believed that his father had died fighting to restore the realm to its former glory after years of corruption and ineptitude.
After his father’s death at the Battle of Wakefield, the family had been forced to flee to the court of Philip the Good of Burgundy, where an almost fantasy world of courtly etiquette and chivalric exploits was fostered.
The young Duke of Gloucester possessed a 12th-century romance of the perfect knight, Ipomedon, and in his copy he had written tant le disiree, “I have desired it so much”. The motto he used, loyaulte me lie, “loyalty binds me”, has that same sense of a craving for a lost idealism.
The Harringtons – like Richard, their lord – were to pay a heavy price for the failed horse charge at Bosworth and the Yorkists’ subsequent defeat.
After the battle, Stanley received possession of all the Harrington properties and became earl of Derby. His brother, the impetuous and treacherous William, betrayed a king once too often and was executed by Henry Tudor in 1495.
Henry himself set about dismantling the capacity of the magnates to raise their own troops and to wield their own power. Private armies were abolished and the Tudor monopoly of authority began. From henceforth this power could only be challenged by Parliament or by the rebellion of commoners.

10 things you need to know about the battle of Bosworth

The battle of Bosworth, in which Richard III was killed, was the last significant clash of the Wars of the Roses. Here, Chris Skidmore MP, the author of Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors, summarises 10 need-to-know facts about the battle that heralded the end of the Plantagenet dynasty and marked the birth of the Tudor age.
This article was first published in August 2014
History Extra

For many, 22 August 1485 remains one of the key dates in British history. Yet what exactly took place in the early hours of the morning (the battle was over by noon) still remains tantalisingly elusive.

Nevertheless, many myths surrounding Bosworth remain prevalent – stirred by the imaginings of Shakespeare, whose famous words, “A horse, a horse, a kingdom for my horse”, placed in the mouth of the defeated Richard III, are occasionally still recounted as part of the narrative description. Despite decades of research into what exactly happened at Bosworth, and where exactly the battle was fought, it seems truth remains inconvenient when it comes to telling a good story.

That shouldn't stop anyone knowing the basic facts of one of the most famous battles in English history, however. So for anyone interested in knowing as far as possible 'what happened', here are 10 key things to bear in mind:

1) The battle of Bosworth wasn't actually fought at Bosworth

It only became known as the battle of Bosworth from around 25 years after it was fought. Instead, contemporaries knew it as the battle of 'Redemore', meaning place of reeds. Other names for the battle included 'Brownheath' and 'Sandeford'.
The site of where the conflict took place has now been located two miles from the battlefield centre, close to the villages of Dadlington and Stoke Golding. The landscape would have been a marshy plainland (later to be drained), across which ran a Roman road.

2) It is hard to imagine the scale of battle sometimes

Richard III's army, at around 15,000 men, was approximately three times the size of Henry Tudor's army at just 5,000 men. Meanwhile the Stanley brothers (Henry Tudor's step-father, Thomas Lord Stanley, and Sir William Stanley) had around 6,000 men between them. These numbers meant that the battle site would have had to stretch across several miles.

3) At the same time, Richard had an impressive military arsenal

One account mentions 140 cannon, while the archaeological searches of the battlefield have found more than 30 cannonshot – more than any other discovered on a European medieval battlefield.


4) Henry Tudor had landed in Wales on 7 August, and had marched more than 200 miles into England

Richard III had been 'overjoyed' to hear of his landing, confident that he would defeat the 'rebel'. So confident was the king that he even delayed leaving his base at Nottingham by a day in order to celebrate a feast day.

5) A novice when it came to battles, Henry Tudor remained stationed at the back of the field, while his forces were led by the Lancastrian general, John de Vere, the earl of Oxford, who also led Henry's vanguard

In between the two forces was a marsh, which Oxford managed to navigate around, keeping the marsh on his right, before launching an attack against Richard III's vanguard, led by the aged John, duke of Norfolk.

6) It was Oxford's crushing of Richard's vanguard that began to turn the battle for Henry: Richard's troops began to desert him

In particular, his 'rear guard' – 7,000 men led by Henry Percy, the earl of Northumberland – stood still, and 'no blows were given or received', suggesting that Northumberland's men were kept out of the action. Perhaps they were unable to cross the marsh.
Alternatively, tales of Northumberland's treachery were rife. Later he was killed by his own supporters for 'disappointing' Richard. Whatever the cause, the fact that the rear half of Richard's army did not engage in battle left the king in real trouble.
Click here to read 'Treachery: What really brought down Richard III'.

7) Richard was offered a horse to flee the battle, but refused

“God forbid I yield one step”, he is reported to have said. “This day I will die as a king or win”. Richard spotted Henry Tudor's standards and decided to charge towards him with his mounted cavalry, perhaps some 200 men in total, wearing the crown over his helmet.

 8) The battle around the standards was brutal

All accounts attest to Richard's strength in battle. Even John Rous, who compared Richard to the Antichrist, admitted “if I may say the truth to his credit, though small in body and feeble of limb, he bore himself like a gallant knight and acted with distinction as his own champion until his last breath”.
Richard knocked down Sir John Cheyney, who at six foot eight inches was the tallest soldier of his day, while Henry's standard-bearer Sir William Brandon was killed. Richard's own standard-bearer, Sir Percival Thribald, has both his legs cut from underneath him, but still managed to cling to the king's standard.

 9) It was only when Henry was in 'immediate danger' that the Stanleys – or rather Sir William Stanley – came to his aid, crashing into the side of Richard's men and sweeping them into the marsh

Sir William had nothing to lose if Richard had won – he had already been declared a traitor days previously. His wily elder brother, Thomas Lord Stanley, despite being married to Henry Tudor's mother, Margaret Beaufort, seems to have thought best to stay out of the battle altogether. When Henry was crowned on a nearby hill, one source reported that it was Sir William Stanley, rather than his brother, who placed the crown on Henry's head.

 10) Thanks to the discovery of Richard's remains, we now know in detail how Richard must have met his end

One report puts his death down to a Welsh halberdier – the halberd being an axe-like weapon on the end of a six-foot long pole. The king's helmet seems to have been cut away (there are cut marks on the skull's jaw suggesting that the helmet's strap has been cut off) to expose his head.
Several gouge marks in the front of the skull seem to have been caused by a dagger, perhaps in a struggle. Then the two wounds that would have killed Richard include the back part of his skull being sheathed off by what seems to be a halberd; if this did not kill him, a sword blade thrust from the base of the skull straight through the brain certainly would have done the job.
Richard was then placed on the back of a horse, trussed up like a hog (his insignia) with his 'privy parts' exposed, to be taken to Leicester, where his body was put on public display.
In conclusion, Bosworth remains a battle with an enduring appeal: it is not simply a tale of defeat and victory, but also of treachery and intrigue. But as recent discoveries have shown, the battle's own history remains very much a living one, with our understanding of where the battle was fought and how exactly Richard III died being completely transformed in recent years. The story of Bosworth, 529 years on, remains very much alive.
Chris Skidmore is author of Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2013) and is currently writing The Lives of Richard III (forthcoming, 2015). He will be at our History Weekend in Malmesbury in October, giving a talk titled Richard III: Inside the Mind of England’s Most Controversial King.

History Trivia - James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England

March 24

 1208 King John of England opposed Innocent III on his nomination for archbishop of Canterbury.

1550 France, England and Scotland signed the Peace of Boulogne, ending the War of the Rough Wooing (conflict between England and Scotland with the Scots receiving French military aid).

 1603 Elizabeth I died and James VI of Scotland became James I of England, unifying the English and Scottish crowns.

Monday, March 23, 2015

AudioBook Launch - Scribbler Tales (Volume Three)

Written by: Mary Ann Bernal
Narrated by: Roberto Scarlato
Length: 1 hr and 10 mins 
Unabridged Audiobook
When a highly classified schematic of a prototype engine is stolen, the evidence points to an inside job, in "Hidden Lies". In "Nightmare", Melanie's childhood demons carry over into adulthood when she returns to her ancestral home. Detective Newport races against time to apprehend a killer targeting prosecuting attorneys in "Payback". "The Night Stalker" is not a figment of Pamela's imagination as she tries to convince the police that her life is in danger.

History Trivia - Handel's Messiah performed for the first time in London

March 23

752 Stephen's two-day pontificate began. Elected to succeed Zachary, Stephen II died before his consecration; earlier writers do not appear to have included him in the list of the popes; but, in accordance with the long standing practice of the Roman Church, he is now generally counted among them. This divergent practice has introduced confusion into the way of counting the Popes Stephen.

1743 Handel's Messiah was performed for the first time in London.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

History Trivia - Order of the Knights Templar suppressed

March 22

1312 Order of the Knights Templar was suppressed.

1429 Joan of Arc dictated a warning to the English.

1457 Gutenberg Bible became the first printed book.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

History Trivia - Cleopatra restored to the throne

March 21

 47 BC, Julius Caesar defeated Ptolemy XII, Cleopatra's brother and rival, at Alexandria, Egypt, thus restoring Cleopatra to the throne.

717 Battle of Vincy between Charles Martel and Ragenfrid who returned defeated to Neustria.  Instead of following the army immediately,  Charles again used tactics he would use all his remaining life, in a career of absolute success. He took time to rally more men and prepare, before descending in full force. He chose where to provoke them to battle, and, at a place and time of his choosing, in Spring 717, Charles eventually followed them and dealt them a serious blow at Vincy on 21 March. He chased the fleeing king and mayor to Paris.

1152 Annulment of the marriage of King Louis VII of France and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor retained control of Aquitaine and shortly thereafter wed Henry Plantagenet, who would become the next king of England.