25 March, 2008

The King's Cardinal

The King's Cardinal is the title of Peter Gwyn's massive biography of Wolsey that I am currently embarking on. This is not History-lite: 639 pages, 14 pages of bibliography, no pictures. Chance of finishing it before it is due back at library: nil.

The book, subtitled The Rise and Fall of Thomas Wolsey was generally well received when published in 1990 in hardback ("Magisterial", according to Lady Antonia Fraser), and the paperback edition was re-issued in 2002.

Gwyn is essentially pro-Wolsey, and sets his stall out in the introduction to challenge the "conventional wisdom" of Wolsey as a bloated anachronism standing in the way of Reformation, i.e. it is a "revisionist" account.

In his Introduction, Gwyn quotes an early "Wolsey-Basher", John Skelton. Skelton was Henry VII's poet laureate, and his son Henry VIII's tutor, and later King's Orator. Here is his poem

"Why Come ye nat to Courte?"

To whyche court?
To the kynges courte?
Or to Hampton Court?
Nay, to the kynges court!

The kynges courte
Shulde have the excellence;
But Hampton Court
Hath the preemynence!

To be continued....

17 March, 2008

Carnivalesque XXXVII is up...

Fed up with the Tudors? Then take a look at the latest Ancient/Medieval edition of the Carnivalesque blog carnival over at In the Middle. Interestingly, this edition is hosted by a Tiny Shriner, a small but perfectly formed member of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. A lot of interesting posts, including What made the Romans laugh.

Anyway, the Shriners' headware of choice is the red fez, so that's an excuse for a Tommy Cooper sketch is it not?

16 March, 2008

Medieval Helpdesk

This gem is exactly at the point where the Norwegian sense of humour intersects with ours....

13 March, 2008

The Sad Demise of Admiral John Byng, 14th March, 1757

Admiral John Byng of the Royal Navy, like Marshal Ney , gave the signal to fire to his own firing squad, in his case by dropping a white handkerchief onto the deck of his flagship "Monarch", on which he was shot at Portsmouth in March 1757.

Byng had been found guilty by court-martial of "failing to do his utmost" in preventing the French capture of Minorca in 1756, at the start of the Seven Years War.

Many thought Byng had been made a scapegoat, and Voltaire wrote about his death in Candide, recording that in England 'it is thought good to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others' (pour encourager les autres)

Byng's end is recorded in typically terse naval style in the Master of the 'Monarch's' log recording the execution: 'at 12 Mr Byng was shot dead by 6 Marines and put into his coffin'.

Links: the National Maritime Museum , Peter Davis' site (where you can also download a Windows simulator for a square-rigged frigate) , Dudley Pope's book At 12 Mr Byng was Shot, which makes the case for Byng's defence.

07 March, 2008

FoodFight - recent conflicts as you have not seen them before!

This a clever stop-motion animation of WW2 and later conflicts (well at least those involving the USA). Each country is represented by a national dish - it took me a while to realise who the Russians are. The film is by Stefan Nadelman. He even includes 9-11. CLICK "READ MORE" TO VIEW FILM

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