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...