30 December, 2007

Sam Pepys caught short

Samuel Pepys wakes at 6 a.m. on a freezing December morning in 1664.

No chamber pot to hand, and he needs a wee.

Does he :

a) hang on until one arrives
b) go and look for one
c) use the chimney

Read the answer here.

28 December, 2007

What the Pope was Eating in 1550 - Bartolomeo Scappi

Having eaten way too much over the festive period (and still eating it), I feel slightly queasy writing a post about food, but here goes.

Carluccio and the Renaissance Cookbook was an entertaining BBC TV show last Thursday about Bartolomeo Scappi. Scappi was a 16th Century chef to the Vatican and author of The Opera, a landmark cookbook.

Feanor at Just a Mon has already written an excellent post on this, so I won't recap the details. I have just discovered this blog, which has some entertaining historical posts about London, including one on the history of Camomile Street in the City.

Back to Scappi...the programme has inspired some good reviews, including Nancy Banks-Smith at Guardian Unlimited ("Catholic churchmen were formidable trenchermen. If you take away one pleasure of the flesh you leave more elbow room for another").

Also Terry Durack at IndyBlogs ("What I remember most, however, is an extreme close-up of a barbecue spit popping out through a suckling pig's bum"). Quite.

There are some interesting comments in reply to Durack's review, including this gem:

"We are in total ore (sic) of Scappi, How can we learn more and find the bible of life, Opera? Please can you help. My husband has just discovered the kitchen and has now seen the light through Scappi's eyes. Genesis. He is now a changed man. We must continue the passion".

Buon Appetito!

13 December, 2007

Carnivalesque XXXIV

Stop press - I have added four extra entries: see if you can spot them...CW.

Carnivalesque XXXIV opens with a view of the seasonal ice rink at Hampton Court Palace; a positive legacy of the Tony Blair era has been the spread of Christmas ice rinks across London's historic places - let's hope Gordon Brown doesn't order them removed due to people enjoying themselves too much.

Staying with Hampton Court, Brett Holman at Airminded has a well-illustrated post on his visit to the palace; he describes the workings of the 16thC astronomical clock, which is currently propped up against a wall in the Clock Court while the gateway is being restored.

Bored with modern architecture? Lara at TudorHistory reports on a London gentleman who has built himself a brand new Tudor house. Not quite on the scale of Hampton Court, but check out the size of the front door key!

Staying with the Tudors , Mark Rayner at the Skwib has come up with another witty set of Lost Powerpoint Slides, this time featuring Sir Thomas "I only burned six" More. Very funny, unless you have Lutheran sympathies.

Here's a Cardinal Wolsey shaggy dog story. Put a Thumb Tack in it has a selection of Dogs that have influenced history. The Early Modern connection is the story of Wolsey's dog Urian who apparently bit the Pope, in so doing scuppering the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon . Surprised this didn't make it into the screenplay for "The Tudors".

Moving along, Claire George writing in My London Your London notes the appeal by the NPG to raise funds to buy a portrait of John Fletcher, Jacobean playwright and collaborator with The Bard on Henry VIII. Fletcher succeeded Shakespeare as house playwright for the King's Men, and apparently lived a bawdy life with his mate Francis Beaumont, with "one wench in the house between them".

Also on matters Shakespeare, Peter Ackroyd in The Times reviews The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street by Charles Nicholl.

The Conventicle is a group blog devoted to Scottish Puritan matters, and meets in a pub (is that allowed??). Sharon Howard tipped the post on Richard Rogers' three motives to thankfulness
from 1603, although I was also tempted by the cracking post on The Clash's recording of English Civil War, complete with video and lyrics. "This may be the first time the words punk and puritan have ever shared the same blog-space". Amen to that.

On to the English Civil Wars proper...

Nick at Mercurius Politicus recommended David Underdown's recent review of David Cressy's England on Edge: Crisis and Revolution 1640-42. However, this review has been the subject of "heated debate" in English Civil War blogs: amongst the skirmishers are Investigations of a Dog, and Mercurius Rusticus .

The BBC History magazine had a major feature on The Levellers in October. Edward Vallance reproduces his article How we should remember the Levellers at his eponymous blog. His challenge is that the legacy of the Putney Debates is in danger of being hijacked for a broader agenda that "threatens to replace genuine history with a politically-motivated fiction." Sounds serious.

Gavin Robinson at Investigations of a Dog describes a cow story from the Battle of Cheriton. Gavin comments " The cow thing has just sparked off lots of random thoughts…" Hopefully Gavin will update us soon on these!.

I am a big fan of Phil Gyford's online version of Samuel Pepys' diary. It is real warts-and-all writing; Pepys was not afraid to record his own drinking and womanising. In November 1664 Pepys was carrying on with Mr. Bagwell's wife in a "blind" alehouse.

Sam P. also gets a mention in Bardolph's post in Blogging the Renaissance on what happened when he and a friend attempted to make some excellent Inke.....to a 1620 recipe.

A difficult choice now on which post to feature from Roy Booth at Early Modern Whale - his discourse on "jolly songs for amateur performers" including an early modern fart-lighting contest just gets the popular vote.

Moving on to the 18th Century, John Overholt at the Hyde Collection Catablog (great word) presents evidence for the size of Edward Gibbon's bookcase, and shows how he used playing cards in his pioneering card index (hands up all fans of the old tactile card indexes). Thanks to Sharon Howard at Early Modern Notes for this and other tips including the next one. In between serious posts Sharon's blog has become useful source of Winter recipes!

Johanna Ost's stylish 18th Century Blog is devoted to fashion and culture from the 1700s. Here she offers a seasonal post with examples of 18thC winter wear as painted by Josh Reynolds and others.

Jem Webster at This Gaudy Gilded Stage continues his series on 18thC "hotties" with Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones. Read how Fielding's views on the fragility of sexuality throw light on why Republicans and evangelical preachers occasionally get caught with their pants down (allegedly...see disclaimer). On a related cross-dressing theme, Providentia has an item on Chevalier Charles/Charlotte D'Eon of France, although buried in St.Pancras.

When I was at school Modern history started in 1815 (these days it begins in 1997) , so hopefully I can include some pre-Waterloo Napoleonic entries . Steve Muhlberger at Muhlberger's Early History reviews Juan Cole's Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East. This is a timely book and gives a different historic perspective on current events in the area. Steve also links to Juan Cole's Napoleon's Egypt blog which you can find documentary material that didn't fit into the book.

Finally, some practical advice from Pastyme with Good Companye on twelve steps to firing a musket !

I seem to have run out of time...hopefully it is still December 16th somewhere. Thanks to all who sent suggestions and/or submissions, and I hope you enjoy reading the posts. Apologies to everyone I have missed out....

11 December, 2007

Last call for Carnivalesque XXXIV

This is the last call for submissions for the next Carnivalesque (Early Modern edition) on 16th December.

To submit nominations either email me at alunadler@yahoo.co.uk, or to the carnival email address (carnivalesque@earlymodernweb.org.uk), or use the handy submission form at Blog Carnival.

Any articles favourable to Cardinal Wolsey's reputation will receive especially sympathetic consideration!!

10 December, 2007

"The Tudors" fun quiz

Here's a fun quiz which the people behind "The Tudors" have put out as part of a DVD promo. The executioner raises his axe higher with every wrong answer......you can guess the rest.

07 December, 2007

Wow. Cardinal Wolsey is hot on the Net!

Tonight the last episode of "The Tudors" series 1 aired on BBC1 here in Blighty. According to the mighty Statcounter real-time tracker tool, this blog started to getting an abundance of hits at around 21:50.

This was the moment when Sam Neill (playing myself) must have misread the script, as he picked up his lunch knife (with which he had just neatly sliced an apple), and proceeded to cut his own throat....nice.

So a lot of people are googling " Cardinul Wolsee how did he snuff it" and similar.

Let me reassure readers that this is what is known as a "ratings device", designed to generate controversy and get people to tune in to series 2 whenever it graces our shores. According to my sources Wolsey died of NATURAL CAUSES in Leicester, during his journey down to London to face possible execution for treason.

Here are all posts on Cardinal Wolsey's Death including "that quote" for those interested.

Anyway, the producers of the show made sure we were soon cheered up by a nice scene involving Henry, Anne Boleyn and a tree.

25 November, 2007

Sunday Stumbles

Some interesting web pages I have come across recently....

Firstly an interactive Map of Early Modern London from the University of Victoria in Canada. This is based on the famous Agas map held by the Guildhall in London, with hyperlinked descriptions of the sites as you move around the map. There are two versions, one "experimental" (fancier interface but harder to use) .

More clever graphics in the Virtual Tour of Hackney's lost Rectory House on the UK National Archives site. This requires some VR software to be downloaded. Clue - if you get lost in the village, follow the white signposts to the Rectory. There is also a video sequence in which reenactors tell the story of the tenants of the Rectory in The Dysasters and Misfortunes of John and Jane Daniell.

Finally, an interesting new series on BBC Radio 4. In The Poetry of History, Jonathan Bate 'presents a series examining historical events through the poetry they inspired'. The first episode went out today, and is about the Battle of Maldon in 991, when a corner of Essex suffered a violent Viking raid. The battle is remembered in a classic Old English poem. You can listen again to the broadcast on the web for the next seven days I think. The program alternates between extracts from the poem (in modern English) and comments by historians on the events - this works really well.

21 November, 2007

Carnivalesque XXXIII is up; nominations please for no.XXXIV!

Carnivalesque XXXIII (Ancient/Medieval edition) is up at Blogenspiel, with interesting posts from the last couple of months.

Cardinal Wolsey is proud to be hosting the next Carnivalesque (Early Modern edition) on 16th December.

To submit nominations either email me at alunadler@yahoo.co.uk, or the carnival email address (carnivalesque@earlymodernweb.org.uk), or use the handy submission form at Blog Carnival. This takes priority over Christmas shopping by the way....

19 November, 2007

Lo! 'Tis the Shakespeare Quote Generator

Test thy knowledge of the Bard with this widgette. Doff of cap to Anachronista for the tip.

William Shakespeare

She's beautiful and therefore to be wooed;
She is a nothing, therefore to be won.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

17 November, 2007

Vivat Regina! The Elizabethan era begins, 17th November, 1558.

November 17th 1558 was the date that Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn, acceded to the English throne, aged 25, after the death of her half-sister Mary I.

In a recent poll by Lara at the TudorHistory blog, Elizabeth easily won the category "favourite Tudor monarch", receiving twice as many votes as Henry VIII in second place.

On her descent from Henry VIII, Elizabeth said: "Although I may not be a lioness, I am a lion's cub, and inherit many of his qualities" [source: Thinkexist.com]

The portrait shows Elizabeth aged around 13.

13 November, 2007

Bloody Events

This week is the anniversary of several Early Modern events that have something in common...blood

November 13th 1553 saw the trial for high treason of Lady Jane Grey and Lord Dudley, although they were not executed until February the next year. Poor Jane's sentence called for her to "be burned alive on Tower Hill or beheaded as the Queen pleases"'[source:Wiki]. Queen "Bloody" Mary chose beheading, which was nice of her.

November 13th is also the anniversay of the Battle of Turnham Green, 1642, an early stand-off in the English Civil War, in which the Royalists, having sacked the posh new waterside flats around Brentford, attempted to seize control of one of London's most important bus garages, but were rebuffed. The English Civil Wars site tells the story.

Samuel Pepys' diary entry for 14th November 1666 gives an account of an early experiment in blood transfusion. [Press the "Back" button now if you are fond of little doggies]. Eric at the Project History blog relates the grisly facts.

08 November, 2007

Would you let a Trojan Horse in?

Here is a funny video from Oz, for serious students of ancient history.....enjoy.

05 November, 2007

Remember, Remember the 5th of November, 1605

No time to write a post tonight, so in the spirit of TV repeats, here is a link to last year's Gunpowder Plot item.

03 November, 2007

Rate "TheTudors"

I have installed a short survey on the sidebar to give readers the chance to rate the TV series "The Tudors", on which opinions seem to be divided. You can check more than one box! Personally, I rate it both "annoying" and "gripping".

Cardinal Wolsey Arrested! 4th November, 1530.

What were the events leading up to the arrest and death of Wolsey?

During the autumn of 1529, Henry VIII, angry that Cardinal Wolsey had failed to secure an annulment to his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, had stripped Wolsey of his office of Chancellor, along with most of his property.

In February 1530 Wolsey was pardoned by Henry and allowed to retire as Archbishop of York. He set off for Yorkshire and set about winning support from the folk living around Cawood Castle (see picture), the residence of the Archbishop.

Wolsey's long-term survival seemed at this point reasonably secure if he played his cards cautiously.

However, Wolsey made two mistakes. He plotted to have Anne Boleyn (one of his key opponents at court) forced into exile and wrote letters to Queen Catherine and the Pope to that end, which the King found out about (Bad). Wolsey also apparently failed to invite Henry to his lavish planned enthronement as Archbishop of York (Bad also).

Having lost patience, Henry ordered Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland to arrest Wolsey at Cawood.

The scene of the arrest is described by George Cavendish, Wolsey's gentleman-usher and biographer:

"The Cardinal was at dinner when Northumberland arrived; the bustle occasioned by his admittance reached Wolsey's ears, who came out of the dining room on to the grand staircase to inquire the cause. He was there met by the Earl, who drew him aside to a window, and showed his commission, exclaiming, 'My Lord Cardinal, I arrest you in the name of King Henry.' The Cardinal assumed a lofty air and tone, appealing to the Court of Rome, whose servant he declared himself to be, and consequently not amenable to temporal arrest. In reply, said the Earl, 'My Lord, when you presented me with this staff (showing his staff of office), you then said that with it I might arrest any person beneath the dignity of a sovereign.' Wolsey's countenance immediately fell, while he soberly subjoined, 'My Lord, I submit, and surrender myself your prisoner.' "
source: York Online website.

Another account is given by Tudor chronicler Edward Hall.

After the arrest Wolsey was taken to Sheffield Castle, and died on the 24th November 1530 at Leicester, whilst being conveyed to London to face likely execution.

Incidentally, Wolsey was not buried in the monumental black sarcophagus he had designed for himself; that box was eventually occupied by...Lord Nelson. Wolsey was simply laid to rest within the walls of Leicester Abbey.

20 October, 2007

Trafalgar, 21st October, 1805

Today is the 202nd anniversary of Trafalgar, perhaps the Royal Navy's greatest victory. The picture shows part of Nelson's sketch of his famous battle plan, to sail at an angle through the French and Spanish lines, rather than line up in parallel and blast away with broadsides as was the usual tactic.

This plan however involved 20-30 minutes of sailing under heavy fire toward the enemy lines without being able to engage them until the point of breaking through.

Colin White of the National Maritime Museum describes how Nelson drew up his battle plan here .

There is an interesting animation showing the progress of the battle, on the National Maritime Museum website.

Budding admirals who would like to test their skills against a computerised enemy can refight the battle in the BBC's Trafalgar Battlefield Academy

Various eyewitness accounts such as that of 16-year old marine Lt Paul Harris Nicholas show how Nelson's plan to bring about a chaotic "pell-mell" in order to defeat the enemy became all too true. Casualties on both sides were heavier than any sea battle in the previous 250 years.

David Cordingley's excellent book Billy Ruffian (Bloomsbury, 2003) contains a gripping description of the battle from the point of view of a particular ship of the line (the Bellerophon).

Cardinal Wolsey's Vodpod selections this week have a naval warfare theme, including a very funny spoof.

Finally here is a useful Royal Navy index of navy slang, so you can find out what Honkydonks and Mouldys are.

15 October, 2007

Trees Lounge

A visit to Kew Gardens last weekend to see the magnificent exhibition of 28 monumental Henry Moore sculptures installed around the landscape. If you can get there the exhibition is highly recommended, and is on until March when the lorries will cart them away again.

An interesting tree at Kew is the impressive Lucombe Oak, Quercus x hispanica . It is a semi-evergreen hybrid of the cork oak and Turkey oak, and was first raised around 1765 by William Lucombe, a nursery man of Exeter. Lucombe cut down the original hybrid in 1785, and decided to keep some of the timber to cut into planks his coffin. He stored the wood under his bed for this purpose. Things did not quite go according to plan, as Lucombe lived to 102, by time the timber under his bed had decayed in the damp Devon atmosphere. Undeterred, he replaced the timber with another graft, and was buried in a Lucombe Oak coffin.

Whilst on the subject of historic trees, the creepy looking Big Belly Oak (see picture) is a 1000-year old tree in the Savernake forest near Marlborough, Wiltshire. This is a remnant of one of the ancient "royal forests" going back to the Norman kings. The BBC Wiltshire website recounts the legend that the devil can be summoned by anyone dancing naked twelve times around the tree. In Tudor times the forest's steward was John Seymour, and Henry VIII may well have courted his daughter Jane in the forest: "Henry dear, will you stop running round that tree; I'm sure he would have appeared by now !"

11 October, 2007

History as Entertainment

Although I managed to miss the opening of " The Tudors" on BBC, I understand now why the USA is already on series two. Just check out the enthusiastic "Renaissance Fayre" videos on the Cardinal Wolsey vodpod sidebar this week. I like the witty voiceover on the Nebraska one: "Who put the car dealership ad on the castle??". They just can't get enough of those Tudors!

04 October, 2007

National Poetry Day selections

It is England's (or is it Britain's?) National Poetry Day. Here are Cardinal Wolsey's selections:

First, the moving verse written by Ben Johnson (pictured), on the death of his first daughter Mary in 1593 aged 6 months.

Here lies, to each her parents' ruth,
Mary, the daughter of their youth;
Yet all heaven's gifts being heaven's due,
It makes the father less to rue.
At six months' end, she parted hence
With safety of her innocence;
Whose soul heaven's queen, whose name she bears,
In comfort of her mother's tears,
Hath placed amongst her virgin-train:
Where, while that severed doth remain,
This grave partakes the fleshly birth;
Which cover lightly, gentle earth!

Next, a nice reading of John Donne's poem Death Be Not Proud from the anonymous Classic Poetry Aloud podcast.

Shakespeare fans will enjoy the BBC's Scrambled Sonnet game. (Shakespeare, Donne and Johnson were contemporaries).

Finally, from 1890, an amazing wax cylinder recording of Alfred Lord Tennyson reading The Charge of the Light Brigade . The recording was made by Thomas Edison in the poet laureate's home. Listen for the strange knocking toward the end of the recording - the ghost of the doomed cavalry?

01 October, 2007

I am 58% addicted to blogging

I found this fun quiz at Phil Stolle's Thoughtsparks site. So I can reassure my wife that I am less than 60% addicted to blogging, according to a reputable scientific test. Unfortunately this only gets the reaction: " What are you doing on a dating site???" . Err....

58%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

28 September, 2007

The Battle of the Kentish Knock, 28th September, 1652

An important 17thC naval battle from the First Anglo-Dutch War for today's post. The Kentish Knock is one of the sand bars off the entrance to the Thames Estuary, close to one of the usual anchorages of the English fleet at the Downs.

The background to the battle was the English Civil War, which had finally ended a year earlier when Cromwell's Parliamentary army defeated Charles II's supporters at Worcester in 1651.

The war had weakened England's control over commerce and trade, and escalating skirmishes between Dutch and English forces made war inevitable as the Dutch tried to challenge English control over valuable trade routes to the Indies, etc.

The Dutch were hampered by drunk crews and rebellious Zealanders who sailed home halfway through the battle, and the result was a victory for the Commonwealth of England, although the Dutch managed to withdraw with much of their fleet intact, chased by the English.

For more on the battle, see Wikipedia and this site.

note on dates: most sources have the date of the battle as 28th September, which is the date according to the Julian calendar used in England up to 1752; the Wikipedia entry uses the modern Gregorian calendar date of 8th October

See also previous post on the later Battle of Sole Bay.

Continuing the nautical theme, Cardinal Wolsey's vodpod sidebar features sea shanties this week...the Japanese choir's rendition of "Whisky Johnny" is a hoot.

20 September, 2007

The Journey of Mankind

Another good find via Stumbleupon.com. What were the origins of the Early Modern era? Well, 160,000 years ago, Homeo Sapiens Tudor set out from East Africa, and eventually made it to Hampton Court. The Journey of Mankind is a nifty Shockwave animation from the Bradshaw Foundation which charts the "long march" of Homeo Sapiens, showing the various migration routes, and the impact of global warming and cooling on a rather more dramatic scale than we are used to.
We were never taught much before the Egyptians at school, but the events described here are fascinating. The "super-eruption" of Mt Toba in Sumatra 74000 years ago caused a 6-year nuclear winter and ice age for 1000 years, and the world population dropped to 10,000. It could have been curtains for civilisation, blogs would not exist......

17 September, 2007

Pepys on Moscow

An evocative description of Moscow from Samuel Pepys' diary entry for 17th September, 1664.

".....walked into the fields as far almost as Sir G.Whitmore's, all the way talking of Russia, which, he says, is a sad place; and, though Moscow is a very great city, yet it is from the distance between house and house, and few people compared with this, and poor, sorry houses, the Emperor himself living in a wooden house, his exercise only flying a hawk at pigeons and carrying pigeons ten or twelve miles off and then laying wagers which pigeon shall come soonest home to her house. All the winter within doors, some few playing at chesse, but most drinking their time away. Women live very slavishly there, and it seems in the Emperor’s court no room hath above two or three windows, and those the greatest not a yard wide or high, for warmth in winter time; and that the general cure for all diseases there is their sweating houses, or people that are poor they get into their ovens, being heated, and there lie. Little learning among things of any sort. Not a man that speaks Latin, unless the Secretary of State by chance."

Moscow can be grim but the Russian sense of humour usually saves the day: check out the funny cosmonaut animation on this website for a heroically ugly hotel.

Anglesey and the Tudors - Holiday notes pt 2

What is the link between Anglesey and Tudor England? Owain Tudor, a decendent of 12thC Welsh prince Rhys ap Gruffydd, was born around 1400 on Anglesey at Plas Penmynydd. Wikipedia has the detail on Owain's ancestry but I got lost. His rather nifty coat of arms is shown at right.

Owain joined Henry V's court and, after Henry's death, became master of his widow Queen Catherine's wardrobe, and just possibly her bed, and they secretly married around 1428. This gave their grandson, Henry, a claim to the throne.

In 1485 Henry and his army defeated King Richard "My kingdom for a horse!" the Third at the battle of Bosworth Field in Leicestershire. Richard was killed and Henry was crowned Henry VII, starting the Tudor era.

Owain himself was executed in 1461 during the Wars of the Roses; his alleged last words to the executioner: "the head which used to lie in Queen Katherine's lap, would now lie in the executioner's basket." In fact, at 61 he had a good innings by medieval standards.

Recommended: Warren Kovach's Anglesey History site

13 September, 2007

A New Take on Tetris

Here is an interesting take on Tetris that will test your geography. Statetris is great fun - try the hard setting where you don't get the names of the countries/counties/states you are trying to fit together. Thanks to Stumbleupon for somehow turning this one up.

05 September, 2007

Peidiwch a Trio Hyn Adref! Holiday Notes Part 1

Some holiday notes from a week on the island of Anglesey, where posh Scousers and those mad enough to like driving behind caravans on the A5 congregate to enjoy sitting on a windy beach with a view of Snowdonia. Hence title of today's post in Welsh (over 60% of those on Anglesey use it as first language)....this is taken from the website of the Ardudwy Knights reenactment group (Anglesey is big on reenactments, of which more later), who entertained us at Beaumaris castle, all for charity. The translation is "don't try this at home!".

The journey from London is 4.5 hrs according to the AA, which calculates to 6 hrs when breaks for "i need a wee wee" and "the sweets have run out" are factored in. The first "are we there yet?" was after approx 5.5 miles. To break the journey an overnight stop was made near Oswestry (the children could not believe they had sat in a car for 3.5 hrs and were not yet in Wales), in the Fitzwarine House B&B at Whittington.

The advantage of staying here is that it is opposite Whittington Castle, (pictured) which may be the only English castle owned by the local community on a 99 year lease. They have a new tea shop courtesy of the Heritage Lottery fund, and there are useful info boards describing the role of the castle as a border stronghold in the 12th and 13th centuries. It was held by both English and Welsh lords at various points, and also figured in the Civil War before falling into disuse. There are also interesting Iron-Age earthworks adjacent to the castle.

No doubt in an effort to attract more tourism, the castle claims links to Dick Whittington, Robin Hood, and of course the Holy Grail. After a strenuous exploration of the ramparts, the adjacent White Lion pub does a decent pint of Bass.

Next installment to follow...

17 August, 2007

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with A...

If you haven't seen it, a witty animated version of the Bayeux Tapestry is worth a look on Youtube, complete with appropriate sound effects and Hollywood-style background music in the battle scenes.
More seriously, military historian Gary Smailes asks Should we trust the Bayeux Tapestry?
He also has produced a map of the Battle of Hastings using Google Maps...nifty.

13 August, 2007

Into the deep, dark wood with Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

I have just discovered the Danteworlds website, which brings to life Dante's Divine Comedy and is run by the University of Texas at Austin. In their words, "an integrated multimedia journey--combining artistic images, textual commentary, and audio recordings".....Awesome, as they might say in Austin.

The painting at right, by Domenico di Michelino (C15th) shows Dante between the mountain of Purgatory and the city of Florence.

11 August, 2007

Nasty jobs in history

If any readers are in unfulfilling jobs, remember it could be worse. Here is a reminder of some nasty job roles in history, as described in Tony (Time Team, Blackadder) Robinson's Channel 4 series and book, the Worst Jobs in History. Next time the photocopier breaks down, remember you could have been Groom of the Stool.

06 August, 2007

Music to blog by - a selection

Have been exploring various radio stations offered by iTunes (though also direct on www), in search of something good to listen to whilst blogging (ie writing a post or reading other peoples')

Here's my selection, maybe readers have other favourites (including silence!):

Datempo Lounge Radio "The finest Lounge, Bossa-Nova and Chillout live from Paris"
Chanteurs "French songs since 1890 of the dead artists" (sic)
AfricanInternetRadio "The Best mix of music from Africa and beyond"
Illinois Street Lounge on SomaFM "Classic batchelor pad, playful exotica and vintage music of tomorrow" . In fact all the SomaFM channels are worth checking out.
Dub Beautiful Collective "Live ambient, downtempo, and IDM recordings from San Fransisco"

29 July, 2007

Cardinal Wolsey - Key Dates or Timeline

Key Dates in Cardinal Wolsey's life: this post will be updated as more events are added, so this is a "starter for 10". (Readers outside the UK may not be familiar with this phrase..it comes from the TV quiz show University Challenge, where each round starts with a question worth ten points!)

Wolsey's age at the time is given in brackets, assuming he was born in Jan 1472 (we are not sure).

1471, 1472 or 1473.Wolsey born in Ipswich, Suffolk. Son of probable butcher and/or grazier and/or merchant Robert Wulcy.
1487 or 88 (15 or 16). Took first degree at Magdelen College, Oxford at young age.
1491 (19) Took Masters degree at Oxford.
1496 (24) Father, Robert Wulcy, dies.
1497 (25) Elected Fellow of Magdalen; appointed Master of adjoining school.
1498 March 10th. (age 26). Ordained a priest in Marlborough
1500 (28) Presented with Rectory of Limington, Somerset, but may never have taken up residence (still schoolmaster in Oxford).
1506 (34) Acquires living of Redgrave in Suffolk.
1507 (35) Appointed chaplain to Henry VII.
1509, Feb.(37) Appointed Dean of Lincoln

1509. Death of Henry VII. Henry VIII becomes king.
1509. Henry VIII appoints Wolsey as Almoner, with a seat on the council.
1511 (39) Pope Julius II asks Wolsey for help against perceived French threat. Wolsey persuades Henry VIII to join Holy League against France
1511 (39) Wolsey becomes Canon of Windsor and member of Privy Council
1512 (40) Appointed Dean of Hereford.
1512-14 (40-42) War with France (expensive).
1513 (41) Henry dispatches army to Scotland to suppress rebellion. Scots defeated at Battle of Flodden with 10,000 dead, including James IV of Scotland.
1514 (42) Temporary peace with France brokered by Wolsey. Henry's sister Mary marries Louis XII as part of the deal.
1514 (42) Wolsey made Bishop of Lincoln, then Archbishop of York.
1514 (42) Wolsey angers Henry VIII by siding with the clergy in the case of Richard Hume.

1515(43) Pope Leo X appoints Wolsey as a Cardinal.
1515. Lord Chancellor Warham resigns after pressure from Wolsey. Henry VIII appoints Wolsey in his place.
1517-18 (45-46) Wolsey conducts enquiries into the Enclosures, which were driving the poor off the land and into the towns.
1518. Wolsey introduces "Just Price" policy to regulate meat prices.
1518. Wolsey made Papal Legate in England.
1518. Wolsey organises peace summit in London attended by 20 nations. Treaty of London signed as non-aggression pact and alliance against Turkish expansion.

1520 (48) Wolsey organises Field of the Cloth of Gold, an ego boost for Henry.
1520 (48) Wolsey makes alliance with Charles V of Holy Roman Empire against France, against treaty signed with France same year.
1522 (50) Wolsey raises £200,000 from the nobility via compulsory "benevolences".
1522-3 (50-51) War with France again (less successful).
1523. Wolsey drops opposition to Enclosures to gain Parliamentary support for war taxes. However, Parliament, led by Speaker Thomas More, offers only £100,000 per year against Wolsey's request for £800,000.
1523. Wolsey rewarded with Prince-Bishopric or Durham after succesful outcome of peace negotiations with France.

1524 (52) Wolsey dissolves a number of monasteries.
1524. Wolsey employed Benedetto of Florence to build a sumptuous sarcophagus of black marble at Windsor. Wolsey fell from disgrace before it was completed. It was eventually to mark the grave of Lord Nelson at St Paul's Cathedral in 1805
1525 (53) Charles defeats France at Battle of Pavia. Henry VIII has opportunity to seize power in France, but Parliament refuses to raise taxes. Wolsey devises Amicable Grant but is rebuffed and there is no invasion. Wolsey's popularity at new low.
1526 (54) Wolsey switches alliance to France again; devises League of Cognac (with France and some Italian states, against Charles)

1527 (55) Wolsey dissolves more monasteries.
1527, May. Wolsey convenes secret eclesiastical court to consider grounds for annulment of Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon, which Wolsey initially opposed.
1527. After bad harvest, Wolsey avoids disorder by distributing surplus grain to the needy.
1528 (56). Wolsey begins to limit benefit of the clergy.
1528. Henry is said to have exclaimed that he would have given "a thousand Wolsey's for one Anne Boleyn".
c1528. Son, Thomas Wynter Wolsey, born to Wolsey and his mistress Joan Larke of Yarmouth.
1529 (57). France makes peace with Charles, and stirs up Scots against England.
1529, Oct. Wolsey stripped of office of Lord Chancellor. Wolsey gives the King most of his property, and retires to Esher. Wolsey falls ill.
1530, Feb. Henry pardons Wolsey and confirms his Archbishopric of York, much to Anne's displeasure.
c1530 (58) Wolsey's daughter, Dorothy, born.
1530. Wolsey visits Sheffield
1530, Nov. Anne Boleyn's campaign against Wolsey is successful and he is charged with treason whilst in the north.
1530. Nov 28/29 Wolsey dies at Leicester on his way to probable execution in London. Wolsey was laid to rest within the walls of Leicester Abbey.

sources: Wikipedia, Catholic Encyclopedia, Luminarium

23 July, 2007

Cannon fodder

This post is a modest entry for the Your Nearest Site carnival....
In a Hampton cul-de-sac, a couple of streets from my house, an upturned cannon sits in the ground surrounded by a patch of grass in the middle of a small council estate.

It is a interesting relic of General William Roy's pioneering late C18th triangulation work which laid the basis for the Ordnance Survey.

The photo is courtesy the Twickenham Museum website, which tells the story of how Roy, a Royal Engineer, used triangulation to measure the distance between the Paris and Greenwich observatories. Until the advent of GPS, triangulation was the only means to measure distances over water.

The other end Roy's baseline, 5 miles to the north, is marked by another cannon in a slightly more noisy location on the perimeter road around Heathrow Airport.

To quote the Royal Engineers Museum site, "This line was measured in the summer of 1784, three times over, by means of cased glass tubing, seasoned deal rods and a steel chain. The discrepancy between these three methods was less than 3 inches".

13 July, 2007

The Dean of St.Paul's invents bottled beer, 13th July, 1568

Cardinal Wolsey did not drink bottled beer. Why? Because he had been dead for 39 years when Dr Alexander Nowell, Dean of St Paul's is reputed to have discovered the benefits of bottled beer by accident.

According the the History of the Pint,
the Dean had decanted some beer into a bottle for a fishing expedition in 1568. He lost a bottle in the grass and, "when he came upon it again quite by chance a few days later, found it was still perfectly drinkable".

The Mary Rose website discusses the importance of copious supplies of beer to the Tudor navy : seven gallons per man was the norm.

Some interesting"annotations" on the subject of beer in the 17th century have been contributed by readers of the Samuel Pepys Diary blog . Pepys himself records the unfortunate consequences of drinking bad beer in the diary...
"Drinking of cold small beer here I fell ill, and was forced to go out and vomit, and so was well again and went home by and by to bed."(16 March, 1662).

["Small beer" was lower in alcohol than "Strong beer", and so more liable to contamination! ]

08 July, 2007

Joan of Arc found innocent, 7th July, 1456

Joan of Arc was finally declared innocent of heresy by Inquisitor-General Jean Brehal on 7th July 1456, 25 years after her death at the stake.

Some more modern cases of those found innocent or pardoned after their executions:

More than 300 British soldiers shot for cowardice or desertion in World War One 1914-18. The link is to a BBC article including personal stories. However, the Army Act of 2006 that enacted the pardon stated that it "does not affect any conviction or sentence."

Lena Barker, a black maid sent to the electric chair in 1945 for killing a white man she said had enslaved her: pardoned in 2005. The link is to the US National Public Radio site, including an audio podcast.

This year, relatives of Admiral John Byng, executed in 1757 for failing to "do his utmost", petitioned the Ministry of Defence for a posthumous pardon, but were turned down.

05 July, 2007

Test your knowledge of British Castles and Cathedrals

Came across this great set of aerial photos of castles and cathedrals - most are British. Unhelpfully they aren't labelled....how many can you name?

02 July, 2007

Is YouTube any good for History?

Is YouTube any use for those of us interested in History?

For future generations it is accumulating a vast pile of first-person accounts (eg the frontline coverage from Iraq and Afghanistan), and is very much focussed on the Now...maybe with a nostalgic retro feel in places (eg all the Star Wars spoofs).

However, a quick browse through turned up some interesting uploads (some of which are no doubt infringing copyright!):

A search for "Early Modern history" turned up an interesting video from Warwick University's ICAST series on Angels in the Early Modern Period.

This led to another Warwick video on Prof. John Bates' five year effort to edit a new edition of the Complete Works of Shakespeare - check out the bags under his eyes.

Americans are into re-enactment in a big way - this clip is comedian Dan Polydoris' take on the Renaissance Fair phenomenon - [warning - contains strong language and drug references!]

A search for Tudor History brings back 39 responses. Here is Adam-Hart Davies expounding on Tudor toilet technology as only he can.

CBS have put up an official trailer for the US hit series The Tudors, although there are lots or pirated clips also. CBS are taking a similar apprach to the BBC/HBO series "Rome" , hence I laughed when I heard this punchline from the CBS trailer: "The next best thing to being the King, is hanging with the King". Even better is this viewer comment: " this show is sooo frekin awesome!" Right.

Finally, here is US artist/historian George Stuart on Cardinal Wolsey, part of a monologue covering the key figures in 400 years of British History ... Wolsey gets just under five minutes.

That's it for now.

29 June, 2007

Wet wet wet! Early Modern floods....

With various parts of England currently bailing out after the recent storms and river surges (and more to come this weekend apparently), it seems appropriate to have a look back at how Britain's flood defences (or lack of them) fared in earlier times.

The "main event" in Early Modern times was the Great Flood of January 1607, depicted in the woodcut shown here. There are good features on this on the BBC Bristol and BBC Somerset sites. The latter has an atmospheric audio story of the 1607 flood ,which is best listened to with a howling gale outside and a glass of ale in hand. A tsunami-like surge up the Bristol Channel killed 2,000, mainly in Somerset.

An interesting source for historical flood events is the Chronology of British Hydrological Events, hosted by Dundee Univ. "Recent years have seen an increased awareness of the varaibility (sic) of hydrological behaviour"...a nice scientific understatement.

Anyway, the searchable database threw up these quotes from primary sources, Early Modern and earlier...

Hertfordshire, 1695: Ralph Thoresby, in his Diary writes:- 'May 17th, morning, rode by Puckeridge to Ware, where we had some showers which raised the washes from the road to the height that passengers from London that were upon the road swam and a poor higgler was drowned, which prevented our travelling for many hours, yet towards evening adventured over the meadows where we missed the deepest wash at Cheshunt, though we rode to the saddleskirts for a considerable way, but got safe to Waltham Cross.' "

London, 1668: on 23rd May, 1668, Samuel Pepys writes in his Diary: "About six in the morning took coach, and so away to bishops Stortford. The ways mighty full of water, so as hardly to be passed. "

Stratford-upon-Avon, 1588: "The worst flood recorded occurred on the 18th July, 1588, just before the Spanish Armada, when a sudden rise in the river, 'higher than ever yt was knowne by a yeard and a halfe and something more', carried away all the hay in the Avon valley, breaking both ends of Straford's bridge and leaving a trail of devastation all along the river course, from Warwick where houses were broken down to Welford and Bidford, with consequent loss of life and goods. According to a contemporary account the water rose a yard every hour from eight till four o'clock in the day, and it depicts in graphic detail the plight of the three men who, going over Clopton Bridge, 'when they cam to the midle of the Bridge they could not goe forwardes and then returned presently but they could not go backe for the watter was soe risen'." [Warwickshire Avon]
Source: Levi Fox (1953) The Borough Town of Stratford-upon-Avon

London, 1216: "It is recorded that in 1216 people have rowed through the Great Hall of Westminster whose floor lay covered in fish as the floods receded"
Source: http://www.riverthames.co.uk/

28 June, 2007

Cornish rebels meet a sticky end , 27th June, 1497

Mychal an Gof ("the Smith") and Thomas Flamank were leaders of the Cornish uprising of June 1497. The uprising was a protest at taxes levied by Henry VII to pay for an invasion of Scotland, a war which the Cornish people did not feel connected with; they also suspected that much of the money raised would go to corrupt officials.

[Thomas Wolsey was 24 at the time, and was preparing for ordination as a priest having studied theology at Oxford. His father Robert Wolsey, an Ipswich butcher, had died the previous year. ]

On their march to London, An Gof and Flamank were joined by Lord Audley, who assumed overall command. Most of the band were armed with only bows and basic weapons (ie farm implements).

[The picture at right is an evocative painting by Donal Macleod entited "Crossing the Tamar - the Cornish Rebellion" ]

Unfortunately for the rebels, Henry VII had thousands of troops in London ready to march up to Scotland, and the sensible course would have been for the Cornishmen to realise the game was up and head home (many did).

Knowing of Jack Cade's rebellion of 1450, the Cornish men hoped for support from Kent, but this was not forthcoming.

Inevitably, the heads of An Gof and Flamank ended up on pikes on London Bridge. Audley, as a peer, was spared being hung, drawn and quartered, and suffered only a nice clean beheading.

Postscipt: in March 2007 a Cornish extremist group calling themselves An Gof threatened a new terror campaign against anyone flying an English flag. This group exploded a bomb in St Austell in 198o so may not be joking....

While looking for images of the rebellion I came across this amusing blog post. Check out the comments on the post.

sources: Wikipedia, Wikipedia links.

18 June, 2007

First life insurance taken out in London, 18th June, 1583

Although we know that Roman "burial clubs" were a form of life insurance, Alderman Richard Martin is generally credited with taking out the first Life Insurance policy proper. The policy was taken out on the life of William Gybbon, a salter (he preserved meat and fish).

Apparently the policy was a one-year term, and Gybbon died just before the year was up. True to present form, the underwriters initially refused to pay up on the grounds that the contract was for a lunar year. The courts however ruled in favour of Martin.

There is more information in the Annals of the American Academy of Political Science, 1905 : apparently Martin effectively wagered 30 pounds with 13 London merchants that Gybbon would die within the year, and on his death received 400 pounds - a large amount. Cause of death not recorded.........

11 June, 2007

London Olympics logo, 1512 style

With all the comment around the London Olympics 2012 logo, here's an idea for a simple Tudor-style logo for the 1512 Games - shown here on an attractive linen placemat.

Typeface acknowledgment:
Boert Tudor from www.sulucas.com

07 June, 2007

Eighty Years in London

Saw this in today's Evening Standard. Simon Rigglesworth and like-minded photographers are trying to update the 1200 pictures in a book entitled Wonderful London, published in 1926.
You can see them here on the flickr picture-sharing site, including various tudor buildings such as the brick gatehouse in St James.

06 June, 2007

46,000 record One Day in History

We are back in the present for today's post.
On 17th October, 2006, the History Matters campaign run by the National Trust received 46,000 on-line diaries recording the events of that day for the writer. Some of these are quite moving, some are funny, and spelling is clearly an optional subject these days!
Here is a link to the complete One Day in History archive set up by th British Library.

03 June, 2007

Henry VIII marries Katherine of Aragon, 3rd June, 1509

Henry VIII married his first wife Katherine of Aragon (pictured left) on 3rd June, 1509.

Katherine quick facts:

She had previously married Henry's brother Arthur Tudor (pictured right): the marriage was part of a deal between Henry and Spain, and was 16 years in negotiation.

Arthur died after 6 months of marriage, in Ludlow Castle.

When Henry and Katherine were engaged, Katherine was 17, Henry was 12.

They were married for over 20 years.

Of Katherine's children, only Mary survived.

This list of Katherine's births is a reminder of how things were during Tudor times......
1510 Unnamed Daughter - died of natural causes
1511 Henry Tudor - Son - died aged 53 days of natural causes
1513 Unnamed Son - died on day of birth of natural causes
1514 Unnamed Son - died on day of birth of natural causes
1516 Mary - survived
1518 Unnamed Daughter - died of natural causes

Englishhistory.net has a link to Katherine's last letter to Henry, written in 1536. He had married Anne Boleyn in 1533.

29 May, 2007

Henry VIII marries Jane Seymour, 30th May 1536

Henry married Jane only 11 days after Anne Boleyn had lost her head. This was six years after the death of Wolsey.

On the left, the other Jane Seymour, born
Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg, in her 007 role as the lovely Solitaire.

In a googlefight, the Queen wins!

"Jane Seymour Queen of England": 517,000 results
"Jane Seymour actress" : 361,000 results

24 May, 2007

Cardinal Wolsey in Shakespeare; The Globe burns down during "Henry VIII", June 1613.

Shakespeare's last English history play, performed in 1613, was initially titled "All is True". By the time of the publication of the 1623 folio, however ,it had aquired a longer-winded title The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth. Shakespeare probably collaborated with John Fletcher on this play, as he did on others.

According to the Oxford Shakespeare, the play was just into its first run at the Globe, Southwark, in June 1613 when the firing of a cannon ignited the theatre's thatched roof and burned it to the ground. Oops. The were luckily no serious casualties.

See below for a selection of lines or quotations spoken by Cardinal Wolsey in Shakespeare's "Henry VIII".

Act 2 Sc 2:
Wolsey (aside to Gardiner, the King's new secretary, later Bishop of Winchester)
"Give me your hand. Much joy and favour to you. you are the King's now."
Gardiner (aside to Wolsey)
"But to be commanded for ever by your grace, whose hand has raised me."
Act 3 Sc 1
Wolsey (to Queen Katherine)
"Madam, you wrong the King's love with these fears. Your hopes and friends are infinite."

Act3 Sc 2
Wolsey (aside)
"Anne Boleyn? No, I'll no Anne Boleyns for him"

Act3 Sc 2
Wolsey (aside)
"...Again there is sprung up an heretic,
An arch one, Cranmer, one hath crawled
Into the favour of the King
And is his Oracle."

Wolsey (to Henry)
"....My endeavours have ever come too short of my desires..."

Wolsey (facing his downfall):
...This is the state of man. Today he puts forth
The tender leaves of hopes; tomorrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honours thick upon him;
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,
And when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,
And then he falls, as I do...."
Wolsey (to Cromwell):
...Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my King, He would not in mine age Have left me naked to mine enemies."

Click this link for more Cardinal Wolsey quotes

16 March, 2007

Let them eat cake! Henry Jones invents self-raising flour. March 17th, 1845

Henry Jones was fortunate amongst inventors in that he actually made a lot of money from his ingenuity, rather than see others turn his ideas into cash. Good for him.

This is from an article by Eugene Byrne for the 2006 Bristol "Festival of Ideas".
" A baker and confectioner in Broadmead (Bristol), Jones patented his self-raising flour in 1845. Until then, the only raising agent used in bread was yeast, which would not keep. This meant that soldiers and sailors, particularly, had to consume bread and biscuit that would become almost inedible. Jones said it was concern for servicemen, just as much as profit, which prompted him to develop his invention".

Henry Jones strove to convince the Admiralty that although a diet of "maggots, weevils and mouldy biscuits" may have suited Nelson’s crews, only good bread, decently baked, would satisfy a modern seaman.

"It was quickly championed by Florence Nightingale, who could see the advantage in soldiers and sailors enjoying a decent diet and Jones also got a warrant from Queen Victoria to supply the royal household. An article in The Lancet in 1846 praised Jones Patent Flour for its “contribution to public health and to the daily comfort of the masses”. Jones made a small fortune, and then another with his arrowroot biscuits, which were cheap and hugely popular"

Here's a link to an interesting website on the history of Bristol firms , which has a longer article on Henry James & Co , which is still going strong.

27 February, 2007

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

According to Historyorb.com, on 26th February 1616 the Spanish Inquisition delivered an injunction to Galileo.

The Galileo entry on Wikipedia reveals that 'this was an order not to "hold or defend" the idea that the Earth moves and the Sun stands still at the centre'.

Anyway, a good excuse to print some of Cardinal Wolsey's favourite lines from Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch:

Ximinez (Michael Palin):
NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!
Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise....
Our two weapons are fear and surprise... and ruthless efficiency....
Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...
and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope....
Our four... no...
Amongst our weapons... Amongst our weaponry...
are such elements as fear, surprise...
I'll come in again.

Here's a link to the sketch on YouTube

24 February, 2007

Commute with Napoleon

A plug for the continuing entertaining podcast on the life of Napoleon by Cameron Reilly (who asks the questions) and David Markham (who supplies the answers).....ideal for listening on the way to work.
Get Napoleon 101 via ITunes or direct from Podcast Network.

20 February, 2007

John Wilkes thrown out of the Commons for lewd "Essay on Women", 21st February 1764

John Wilkes (unflattering etching by Hogarth on right) was thrown out of the Commons in February 1764 for his lewd "Essay on Women"; today in history 2/21.

John Wilkes was an important radical politician in 18th century England, whose ugly features did not prevent him successfully chasing women whilst at the same time championing the cause of Liberty, to the annoyance of George III and his government.

Here's an extract from an entertaining book review by Geoffrey Robertson in the Times Online from March 2006:

Lord Sandwich (famous for declining to rise from his gaming table for lunch, ordering instead “two slices of bread with something in between”) read the poem to the House, declaring that:
“. . . life can little more supply Than just a few good f***s and then we die.”
[sorry , had to censor this! - CW]
This was a golden moment in the history of British hypocrisy. Sandwich faltered, but their lordships shouted “Go on, go on” before condemning Wilkes for publishing an obscene and blasphemous libel. Wilkes had the last laugh — to Sandwich’s suggestion that he would die either by hanging or the pox, he famously quipped: “That depends on whether I embrace your lordship’s principles or your mistress.”

Wilkes was regarded as a hero of Liberty in the United States, and John Wilkes Booth , assassin of Abraham Lincoln, was indeed named after him.
More on John Wilkes from Wikipedia .

14 February, 2007

Kissing Banned in England (again)

Seeing as it's St. Valentine's day and Cardinal Wolsey may be urgently required in the bedchamber, here's a quick link to an appropriate previous post from 1439!

11 February, 2007

New template

Cardinal Wolsey's Today in History now looks a little different - I have adopted a new Blogger template, which includes indexing via labels. It will take a while to add labels to all previous posts, but once done this will provide easier navigation around the blog!

Alexander Selkirk, inspiration for "Robinson Crusoe", rescued from Fernandez Island. Today in history, 1709

On 12th February 1709 Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor, was rescued from Fernandez Island after 4 1/2 years as a castaway. He was probably the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, first published in 1719.
Wikipedia has an entry on Selkirk. His ship, the privateer Cinque Ports, was not wrecked, but Selkirk suspected it was unseaworthy and would not last the rest of the voyage (he was right).
At first afraid of the wild beasts that might inhabit the interior of the island, he initially stayed near the beach but was pestered by mating sea lions. Further inland he found wild goats and other food, and was able to build shelter using carpenters' tools he had brought ashore from his ship.
After avoiding detection by two Spanish ships (they did not like privateers and would probably have strung him up , or worse), he was eventually rescued by another privateer, the Duke.
Those of a certain age like myself will recall the haunting main theme to the mid-1960s TV show Robinson Crusoe, compulsory viewing at the time with his adventures enthusiastically recreated in the garden the next day.
The good news is that you can still get the soundtrack album on Amazon, or Youtube...does this bring back any memories?

31 January, 2007

Scots sell Charles I to English Parliament for 40 pounds, 30th January 1647

Scots sell Charles I to English Parliament for 40 pounds, 30th January 1647.

Charles I had entrusted himself to the The Scottish Presbyterian army at Newark after escaping from the siege of Oxford in April 1646. He was kept under guard at Southwell while the Scots decided what to do with him. Eventually Charles was delivered to the Parliamentary forces later in 1647; it was a further two years before his eventual execution in January 1649.

Some important medieval ransoms (with Wikipedia links for more details):

The most famous monarch held for a King's Ransom was of course Richard I (the Lionheart), held to ransom 1192-1194 held by Henry of the Holy Roman Empire. His mother Eleanor of Aquitaine worked to raise the 150,000 marks demanded (around 100,000 pounds, maybe two to five times the annual Crown income at the time, depending on which account you read), by heavy taxes on the church and people. These taxes could be up to a quarter value of property owned, but it was worth it to get rid of nasty King John.

Bertrand du Guesclin, brilliant 14th century French soldier during the Hundred Years War, was captured by the English at Auray in 1364. Charles V of France paid his ransom, but he was captured again whilst commanding French mercenaries against Peter the Cruel of Castille (who had enlisted the help of Edward the Black Prince of England). Du Guesclin had the last laugh against the English as in subsequent campaigns he re-captured sizeable chunks of French territory for the home side. He died on a campaign in the south in 1380.

A little later on, James I of Scotland, held to ransom 1406-1424 by Henrys IV and V of England, was treated as a royal guest. James married the Earl of Somerset's daughter before his return to Scotland, where he reigned until 1437; although he pushed through many good reforms in Scotland , he made enemies and unfortunately James was assassinated aged 43.

Reader suggestions on further historical ransoms welcome...

17 January, 2007

Pilgrims in Boston Spot a UFO. Today in History, 1639

The first UFO sighting in the U.S.A may have taken place on 18th January in 1639 (and again in 1644), when Pilgrims saw "A Great Light in the Night" in Boston.

Here is an extract from an article by Christopher Pittman from 2000, which is based on a book by John Winthrop, 'The History of New England, 1630-1639'.

"One night in March of 1639*, James Everell ("a sober, discreet man"- Winthrop) and two companions boarded a little boat and set out for a trip on the Muddy River in Boston. They had been moving downstream for about a mile when the night's mysterious events began. The three men were suddenly confronted with the appearance of a huge, bright light hovering in the sky. The light "flamed up" as it hovered and appeared to be about "three yards square." As they watched, the light "contracted into the figure of a swine" and moved "swift as an arrow" in the direction of Charlton. For two or three hours, the unidentified light moved back and forth in the sky between Everell's location and Charlton. When the light finally disappeared, the men noticed to their dismay that they had somehow been carried against the tide back to the place where they had started their trip! Governor Winthrop noted, "Divers[e] other credible persons saw the same light, after, about the same place." Some witnesses said the light was occasionally seen shooting out flames and sparks, and indeed, two UFOs matching that description were again seen in Boston in 1644."