Æthelred II, more commonly known as the Unready, was king of England from 978 to 1013 and again from 1014 to 1016. He didn’t gain the ‘Unready’ part of his name until some 150 years after his death, so it is no indication of how he was seen at the time. Furthermore, it does not derive from the modern word ‘unredy’, but in fact comes from the Old English word ‘unræd’, which means poorly advised. This is an attempt at humour, because ‘Æthelred’ means ‘well advised’.
Æthelred came to the throne on the 18th March 978 when his older stepbrother, Edward the Martyr was assassinated. There was speculation that the plot to kill Edward was led my Æthelred mother and though there is no evidence to support this allegation, following Æthelred ascension to the throne, no one was punished for a part in the crime. Thus, Æthelred’s reign began in an atmosphere of suspicion which badly affected the prestige of the crown.
England had experienced a period of peace after the reconquest of the Danelaw in the mid-10th century by Æthelred's father, King Edgar the Peaceful. However, early in Æthelred's reign Danish Vikings began raiding the English coast, with Hampshire, Thanet and Cheshire attacked in 980, Devon and Cornwall in 981, Dorset in 982 and Devon in 988. In August 991 things became more serious when a sizeable Danish fleet began a sustained campaign in the south-east of England. Things truly came to ahead when the Danes and English met at The Battle of Maldon, resulting in a crushing defeat upon the English. Following the battle Æthelred decided that the English should grant the tribute to the Danes that they desired, and so a gafol of £10,000 was paid them for their peace. This does not seem to have worked however and the Danes continued to raid and an inconclusive battle was fought near London. Another treaty was signed with a tribute of that £22,000 of gold and silver paid for peace. These payments would become known as Danegeld.
Yet, this treaty was little more than a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ with the leader of the raiders, Olaf Tryggvason, who subsequently entered the employ of the English crown as a mercenary. In 997 the Danes returned under different leadership. The Danes harried England until 1000, then they left for Normandy. In their absence, Æthelred attempted to reinforce his military position. He also invaded the British kingdom of Strathclyde, the motive for which is unknown. The Danes returned in 1001, ravaged west Sussex. And were only subdued with a payment of £24,000 in the Spring of 1002.
On November 13th 1002, St Brice's Day, Æthelred ordered the massacre of all Danish men in England to take place. Among the dead were Gunhilde, sister of Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark. Probably in response, Sweyn invaded England. The English put up a stiff resistance and although the Danes were able to harry much of England, they returned to Denmark in 1005. An expedition the following year was bought off in early 1007 by tribute money of £36,000, and for the next two years England was free from attack. Conflict returned in 1009 when a Danish army under Thorkell the Tall and his brother Hemming invaded and harried England until 1012, when it was bought off by a sum of by £48,000.
In 1013 Sweyn launched an invasion with the ultimate aim of gaining the English crown. Sweeping aside any opposition he conquered the country within the year and Æthelred and his family, including the future kings Edmund and Edward, were forced into exile in Normandy. Sweyn was however unable to enjoy his victory for long, dying on February 3rd 1014 and while the Danes threw in the support for Sweyn’s son, Cnut, the English sent a deputation to Normandy to negotiate Æthelred’s restoration to the throne.
Æthelred returned to England with an army and found support for him still existed in England. Cnut and his army decided to withdraw from England, in April 1014, but would return in 1016 to find a complex and volatile situation unfolding in England. Æthelred's son, Edmund Ironside, had revolted against his father and established himself in the Danelaw. Over the next few months Cnut conquered most of England, and on 23rd April 1016 Æthelred died, leaving Edmund as the sole opposition to the Danes.
These scenes was built by James Pegrum and Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of England and British history in general. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
On this day in 1834, with the HMS Beagle moored in the Rio Santa Cruz, Charles Darwin set out on 'Expedition no. 5' to discover the source of the aforementioned river. During her voyage the Beagle had suffered some minor damage to her keel and copper sheets, which would be repaired while a group of 25 went on the expedition.
The expedition did not reach its goal due to a lack of rations, but it provided Darwin with considerable information that would help form the basis of his geological theories, in particular those on plate tectonics.
Once the HMS Beagle had been repaired she re-entered the tropical waters and the expedition continued towards the Magdalen Channel.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on world history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
On this day in 1746 the Battle of Culloden was fought between the Jacobite army of Charles Edward Stewart, also known as the Young Pretender or Bonnie Prince Charlie, and a Government force under the command of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. The battle resulted in total defeat for the Jacobites and the effective end of any efforts to place a Stuart on the British Throne.
Conflict had broken out in the summer of 1745 with the Jacobites achieving a number of unexpected successes. Having defeated a large government army at the Battle of Prestonpans in September, they effectively controlled the whole of Scotland and even penetrated England as far south as Derby before returning north. The withdrawal would lead them to their last stand on Culloden Moor, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.
On the night before the battle the government army, which was camped around 12 miles from the Jacobites to the west, celebrated Cumberland's twenty-fifth birthday by issuing two gallons of brandy to each regiment. In an attempt to take the initiative, and repeat the victory at Prestonpans, the Jacobites forced a night march with the aim of catching the Hanovarian’s by surprise. The trek however prorated arduous and having already left late, took much longer than expected. In the dark, the right and left wings of the army became separated and by the time the leading troops had reached Culraick, still 2 miles from their objective, there was only one hour left before dawn. It was concluded that there was not enough time to mount a surprise attack and that the offensive should be aborted; the army returned in disarray.
Not long after the exhausted Jacobite forces had made it back to Culloden, reports came through of the advancing government troops. At about 11am the two armies were within sight of one another with about 2 miles (3.2 km) of open moorland between them. As the government forces steadily advanced across the moor, the driving rain and sleet blew from the north-east into the faces of the Jacobites.
The ensuing battle was brief. Unleashing their superior artillery, the government army opened by shelling the Jacobite lines. Charles, who had taken personal command of the army, left his men to endure the barrage for around 30 minutes, waiting for his opponents to move. Several clan leaders, worried about the resulting casualties, its effect on moral and angry at the lack of action, pressured Charles to issue the order to charge. Members of Clan Chattan were the first of the Jacobites to receive this order, but an area of boggy ground in front of them forced them to veer right so that they obstructed the following regiments and the attack was pushed towards the wall of the Culwhiniac enclosure. The Jacobites advanced on the left flank of the government troops, but were subjected to volleys of musket fire and the artillery which had switched from roundshot to grapeshot.
Despite taking heavy casualties the Jacobite charge met the government line, with two regiments, Barrell's 4th Foot and Dejean's 37th Foot, taking the brunt of the attack. The government’s second line was bought forward to plug any gaps and formed a five battalion strong horseshoe-shaped formation which trapped the Jacobite right wing on three sides.
The Jacobite left wing, which consisted of Macdonald regiments, had around 200m more to cover over much boggier ground and so engaged the government troops slightly later. As they took casualties the began to give way and sensing the advantage, Cumberland ordered his dragoons to ride them down. They too were impeded by the boggy ground and ended up engaging the French supplied Irish Picquets, who had been brought forward in an attempt to stabilise the deteriorating Jacobite left flank.
The Jacobite left collapsed and turned into a total rout. The Royal Écossais and Kilmarnock's Footguards, who had attempted an orderly retreat along the Culwhiniac enclosure were ambushed and forced into the centre of the field, where they were run down by Kerr's 11th Dragoons, though they put up a fierce fight and were able to retire. The rout would have become a massacre if it were not for the rear-guard action of the Irish Picquets who covered the Highlanders' retreat. This stand by the Royal Écossais may have given Charles Edward Stewart the time to make his escape.
From this point on the fleeing Jacobite forces were split into two groups: the Lowland regiments retired in order southwards, making their way to Ruthven Barracks; the Highland regiments however were cut off by the government cavalry, and forced to retreat down the road to Inverness. The result was that they were a perfect target for the government dragoons.
It is estimated that of the approximate 7,000 mend deployed at the outset of the battle, Jacobite casualties were around 1,500–2,000 killed or wounded. By contrast, the government only lost between 240-400 of their 8,000, while another 1,000 were wounded.
The 1,500 or so men who assembled at Ruthven Barracks in Badenoch received orders from Charles Edward Stewart to the effect that all was lost and to "shift for himself as best he could". Similar orders must have been received by the Highland units at Fort Augustus. By April 18th the Jacobite army had disbanded. Officers and men of the units in the French service made for Inverness, where they surrendered as prisoners of war on 19 April. The rest of the army broke up, with men heading for home or attempting to escape abroad.
The morning following the Battle of Culloden, Cumberland issued a written order reminding his men that "the public orders of the rebels yesterday was to give us no quarter". Contemporary accounts report then that for the next two days Culloden Moor was searched and all those found wounded there were put to death. Charles Edward returned to France and so ended any realistic attempt to place him, or any other Stuart, on the British throne.
Culloden Battlefield is now owned by National Trust Scotland who have an excellent visitor centre at the site. You can find out more here:
The scenes in this blog were part of our model The Jacobite Risings: The Fight for Britain's Throne which explored the history of the Risings and in particular that of the 'Forty-five'. This model was on display at Stirling Castle over the winter of 2017 and 2018 where it proved hugely popular and received considerable media attention. While the full model no longer exists, parts of it do and are often on display, so follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out where and when.
On this day in 1739 the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin was hanged in York. Turpin became the subject of legend after his execution, romanticised as dashing and heroic in English ballads and popular theatre of the 18th and 19th centuries and in film and television of the 20th century.
Richard Turpin was born at the Blue Bell Inn (later the Rose and Crown) in Hempstead, Essex, the fifth of six children to John Turpin and Mary Elizabeth Parmenter.
Testimony from his trial in 1739 suggests that he had a rudimentary education and, although no records survive of the date of the union, that in about 1725 he married Elizabeth Millington. Following his apprenticeship they moved north to Buckhurst Hill, Essex, where Turpin opened a butcher's shop.
Turpin involvement in crime most likely began in the early 1730s when became associate with an Essex gang of deer thieves, sometimes known as the Gregory Gang. Perhaps through this association with this gang, Turpin’s fortunes were good and in 1734 he became landlord of a public house, probably the Rose and Crown at Clay Hill.
Turpin's involvement in the gang deepened and From 1734 to 1735 they committed numerous home burglaries and became notorious enough for the Duke of Newcastle offered a reward of £50 in exchange for information leading to their conviction.
By August 1735 most of the gang, had been captured, punished or had died in custody. Turpin however, remained at large having turned to highway robbery sometime in the summer of that year. Events turned against Turpin's career as a highwayman when on 4th May 1737 he was recognised by Thomas Morris, a servant of one of Epping Forest's Keepers. Turpin shot and killed Morris on 4th May when Morris attempted to capture him. Morris's killing unleashed a flood of Turpin reports, and a reward of £200 was offered for his capture.
The turned up in Yorkshire in October 1738 under the alias of Palmer. There he shot another man's game cock in the street and was arrested. The Justices of the piece were suspicious of 'Palmer' and suspected him of horse theft, which was indeed true.
Events conspired against him when horses he had stolen were found at his father's Inn. Then a letter from 'Palmer' to his brother-in-law, Pompr Rivernall, fell into the hands of the authorities and his handwriting was recognised.
Dick Turpin was tried for horse theft, which was a capital offense at the time, in York in March 1739. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was hung on the 7th April 1739, aged 33.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on interesting events in British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
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