The Peasants' Revolt
On the 30th May 1381 revolt broke out in Essex following the arrival government official John Bampton to investigate non-payment of the poll tax. The revolt, which would be known as The Peasants' Revolt, Wat Tyler's Rebellion or the Great Rising spread across large parts of the kingdom of England. A contingent of rebels even managed to enter London and gain, albeit temporarily, concessions from the young king, Richard II, who was just 14 at the time. Ultimately however, the revolt would end in failure and by the end of November of the same year, most of the rebel leaders had been tracked down and executed.
The revolt had various causes, including the socio-economic and political tensions generated by the Black Death in the 1340s, the high taxes resulting from the conflict with France during the Hundred Years' War, and instability within the local leadership of London. In particular, people were unhappy with the operation of serfdom and the use of the local manorial courts to exact traditional fines and levies.
The final trigger for the revolt was the arrival of John Bampton in Essex on May 30th 1381 to investigate non-payment of the poll tax. Brampton was a Member of Parliament, a Justice of the Peace and well-connected with royal circles. He based himself in Brentwood and summoned representatives from the neighbouring villages of Corringham, Fobbing and Stanford-le-Hope to explain and make good the shortfalls on June 1st. The villagers however turned up armed and organised, carrying with them old bows and sticks and when two sergeants under Brampton attempted to arrest a representative for non-payment, violence broke out. Brampton escaped to London, but three of his clerks and several of the Brentwood townsfolk who had agreed to act as jurors were killed. By the next day the revolt had spread across the region and by June 4th groups of rebels, now thousands strong, marched north and south, to London and Suffolk to escalate the revolt.
In Kent, violence also flared up following the arrest and imprisonment of a Robert Belling, who was claimed to be an escaped serf. On June 6th, rebels stormed the gaol at Maidstone and then advanced on Rochester Castle, where Belling was held. Faced by the angry crowds, the constable in charge of Rochester Castle surrendered it without a fight and Belling was freed.
From this point, the Kentish peasants appear to have been led by Wat Tyler, whom the Anonimalle Chronicle suggests was elected their leader at a large gathering at Maidstone on June 7th. Little is known about Tyler prior to the Revolt, though it is suggested that he may have served in France as an archer and was a charismatic and capable leader.
Tyler and the Kentish men advanced to Canterbury, entering the walled city and castle without resistance on June 10th. The rebels deposed the absent Archbishop of Canterbury, Sudbury, and made the cathedral monks swear loyalty to their cause. They attacked properties in the city with links to the hated royal council, and searched the city for suspected enemies, dragging the suspects out of their houses and executing them. The city gaol was opened and the prisoners freed. Tyler then persuaded a few thousand of the rebels to leave Canterbury and advance with him on London the next morning.
The Kentish advance on London appears to have been coordinated with the movement of the rebels in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. Their forces were armed with weapons including sticks, battle axes, old swords and bows. Along their way, they encountered Lady Joan, the King's mother, who was travelling back to the capital to avoid being caught up in the revolt; she was mocked but otherwise left unharmed.
Word of the revolt reached the King at Windsor Castle on the night of June 10th and by the next day he had taken up residence in the powerful fortress of the Tower of London. The king was in a difficult position, having perhaps only a few hundred soldiers at his disposal. Most of his troops and experienced commanders were abroad and the nearest major military force was in the north of England, guarding against a potential Scottish invasion. A delegation, headed by Thomas Brinton, the Bishop of Rochester, was therefore sent out from London to negotiate with the rebels and persuade them to return home.
At Blackheath, the Lollard preacher John Ball gave a famous sermon to the assembled Kentishmen. Ball was a well-known priest and radical preacher from Kent, who was by now closely associated with Tyler. Ball rhetorically asked the crowds "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then a gentleman?" and promoted the rebel slogan "With King Richard and the true commons of England".
The phrases emphasised the rebel opposition to the continuation of serfdom and to the hierarchies of the Church and State that separated the subject from the King, while stressing that they were loyal to the monarchy and, unlike the King's advisers, were "true" to Richard. The rebels rejected proposals from the Bishop of Rochester that they should return home, and instead prepared to march on.
Since the Blackheath negotiations had failed, the decision was taken that the King himself should meet the rebels, at Greenwich, on the south side of the Thames. Guarded by four barges of soldiers, Richard sailed from the Tower on the morning of June 13th, where he was met on the other side by the rebel crowds. The negotiations failed, as Richard was unwilling to come ashore and the rebels refused to enter discussions until he did. Richard returned across the river to the Tower.
The rebels entered London via London Bridge on June 13th, the bridge’s gates having been opened from the inside. Another contingent arrived at Algate and where let in by those already inside. The Kentish rebels had assembled a wide-ranging list of people whom they wanted the King to hand over for execution. It included national figures, such as John of Gaunt, Archbishop Sudbury and Hales. The city’s prisons were attacked and emptied and the houses of Flemish immigrants targeted. Smithfield and Clerkenwell Priory, the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller, were also destroyed while the Knights’ legal offices on Fleet Street were emptied of their contents, books and paperwork, which were burnt. Next to be attacked along Fleet Street was the Savoy Palace, a huge, luxurious building belonging to John of Gaunt, which was ripped apart and burnt to the ground. In the evening, rebel forces turned their attention to the Tower of London, from where the young King watched his city burn.
The next day the houses of officials continued to be burnt and Flemings hunted. According to one source, in one city ward, the bodies of 40 executed Flemings were piled up in the street. According to historian Rodney Hilton argues that these attacks may have been coordinated by the weavers' guilds of London, who were commercial competitors of the Flemish weavers.
King Richard left the castle that morning and made his way to negotiate with the rebels at Mile End in east London, taking only a very small bodyguard with him.The King left Sudbury and Hales behind in the Tower, either for their own safety or because Richard had decided it would be safer to distance himself from his unpopular ministers.
It is uncertain who spoke for the rebels at Mile End, and Wat Tyler may not have been present on this occasion, but they appear to have put forward their various demands to the King, including the surrender of the hated officials on their lists for execution; the abolition of serfdom and unfree tenure; and a general amnesty for the rebels. Richard issued charters announcing the abolition of serfdom, which immediately began to be disseminated around the country. He declined to hand over any of his officials, apparently instead promising that he would personally implement any justice that was required.
While Richard was at Mile End, the Tower was taken by the rebels. Taking advantage of the gates, which were open to receive Richard, around 400 rebels entered the fortress, possibly under the leadership of a lady named Johanna Ferrour. They encountered no resistance, possibly because the guards were terrified by them. Once inside, the rebels began to hunt down their key targets, and found Archbishop Sudbury and Robert Hales in the chapel of the White Tower. Along with William Appleton, John of Gaunt's physician, and John Legge, a royal sergeant, they were taken out to Tower Hill and beheaded. Their heads were paraded around the city, before being affixed to London Bridge. The rebels found John of Gaunt's son, the future Henry IV, and were about to execute him as well, when John Ferrour, one of the royal guards, successfully interceded on his behalf. The rebels also discovered Lady Joan and Joan Holland, Richard's sister, in the castle but let them go unharmed after making fun of them. The castle was thoroughly looted of armour and royal paraphernalia.
Richard did not return to the Tower but instead travelled to the Great Wardrobe, one of his royal houses in Blackfriars, part of south-west London. There he appointed the military commander Richard FitzAlan, the Earl of Arundel, to replace Sudbury as Chancellor, and began to make plans to regain an advantage over the rebels the following day.
On June 15th, Richard left the city to meet Tyler and the remaining rebels, who were unsatisfied with the charters granted the previous day, at Smithfield, just outside the city walls. The King and his party, at least 200 strong and including men-at-arms, positioned themselves outside St Bartholomew's Priory to the east of Smithfield, and the thousands of rebels massed along the western end.
Richard probably called Tyler forwards from the crowd to meet him, and Tyler greeted the King with what the royal party considered excessive familiarity, terming Richard his "brother" and promising him his friendship. Richard queried why Tyler and the rebels had not yet left London following the signing of the charters the previous day, but this brought an angry rebuke from Tyler, who requested that a further charter be drawn up. The rebel leader apparently demanded refreshment and, once this had been provided, attempted to leave.
An argument then broke out between Tyler and some of the royal servants. When the Mayor of London, William Walworth, stepped forward to intervene, Tyler made some motion towards the King, and the royal soldiers leapt in. Either Walworth or Richard ordered Tyler to be arrested, Tyler attempted to attack the Mayor, and Walworth responded by stabbing Tyler. Ralph Standish, a royal squire, then repeatedly stabbed Tyler with his sword, mortally injuring him.
The situation was now precarious and violence appeared likely as the rebels prepared to unleash a volley of arrows. Richard rode forward towards the crowd and persuaded them to follow him away from Smithfield, to Clerkenwell Fields, defusing the situation. Walworth meanwhile began to regain control of the situation, backed by reinforcements from the city. Tyler's head was cut off and displayed on a pole and, with their leader dead and the royal government now backed by the London militia, the rebel movement began to collapse. Richard promptly knighted Walworth and his leading supporters for their services.
The royal suppression of the revolt began shortly after, with Sir Robert Knolles, Sir Nicholas Brembre and Sir Robert Launde being appointed to restore control in the capital. A summons was put out for soldiers, probably around 4,000 men were mustered in London, and expeditions to the other troubled parts of the country soon followed. The revolt in East Anglia was independently suppressed by Henry Despenser, the Bishop of Norwich, who defeated a rebel army at the Battle of North Walsham on the 25th or 26th of June.
The rebel leaders were quickly rounded up. John Ball was caught in Coventry, tried in St Albans, and executed on July 15th. A wide range of laws were invoked in the process of the suppression, from general treason to charges of book burning or demolishing houses, a process complicated by the relatively narrow definition of treason at the time. The use of informants and denunciations became common, causing fear to spread across the country; by November at least 1,500 people had been executed or killed in battle.
Despite the violence of the suppression, the government and local lords were relatively cautious in restoring order after the revolt, and continued to worry about fresh revolts for several decades. Indeed, low-level unrest continued for several more years.
There were no further attempts by Parliament to impose a poll tax or to reform England's fiscal system. The Commons instead concluded at the end of 1381 that the military effort on the Continent should be "carefully but substantially reduced". Unable to raise fresh taxes, the government had to curtail its foreign policy and military expeditions and began to examine the options for peace. The institution of serfdom declined after 1381, but primarily for economic rather than political reasons. Rural wages continued to increase, and lords increasingly sold their serfs' freedom in exchange for cash, or converted traditional forms of tenure to new leasehold arrangements. During the 15th century the institution vanished in England completely.
Another effect was that due to the Lollard element within the revolt, the Lollards lost the support and protection of their noble and royal sympathisers. By the mid-1400s, the word Lollard had essentially become synonymous with 'heretic.'
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Elizabeth Fry was one of Britain's most influential 19th century social reformers and is best known for her work on improving the conditions of Britain's gaols. Because of her work, first on the treatment of female prisoners at Newgate Prison and then more generally on the conditions in British and European gaols, she has often been referred to as the "angel of prisons".
Elizabeth was born on May 21st 1780 in Gurney Court, off Magdalen Street, Norwich, Norfolk, England into a prominent Quaker family, the Gurneys. Her father, John Gurney (1749–1809), was a partner in Gurney's Bank. Her mother, Catherine, was a member of the Barclay family who were among the founders of Barclays Bank. Her mother died when Elizabeth was twelve years old so as one of the oldest girls in the family, she was partly responsible for the care and education of the younger children.
She married Joseph Fry, who was also a Quaker, in August 1800 at the Norwich Goat Lane Friends Meeting House and moved to St Mildred's Court in the City of London. In 1811 she was recorded as a minister of the Religious Society of Friends.
Prompted by a family friend, Stephen Grellet, Fry visited Newgate Prison in 1813. The conditions she saw there horrified her. The women's section was overcrowded with women and children, some of whom had not even received a trial. The prisoners did their own cooking and washing in the small cells in which they slept on straw.
She returned the following day with food and clothes for some prisoners. She was unable to personally further her work for nearly four years because of difficulties within the Fry family, including financial difficulties in the Fry bank.
Fry returned in 1816 and was eventually able to fund a prison school for the children who were imprisoned with their mothers. Rather than attempt to impose discipline on the women, she suggested rules and then asked the prisoners to vote on them. In 1817 she helped found the Association for the Reformation of the Female Prisoners in Newgate. This association provided materials for women so that they could learn to sew patchwork which was calming and also allowed skills to develop, such as needlework and knitting which could offer employment when they were out of prison and then could earn money for themselves. This approach was copied elsewhere and led to the eventual creation of the British Ladies' Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners in 1821. She also promoted the idea of rehabilitation instead of harsh punishment which was taken on by the city authorities in London as well as many other authorities and prisons.
Elizabeth Fry also campaigned for the rights and welfare of prisoners who were being transported. The women of Newgate Prison were taken through the streets of London in open carts, often in chains, huddled together with their few possessions. They were pelted with rotten food and filth by the people of the city. The fear was often enough to make women condemned to transportation riot on the evening before. Fry's first action was to persuade the Governor of Newgate prison to send the women in closed carriages and spare them this last indignity before transportation. She visited prison ships and persuaded captains to implement systems to ensure each woman and child would at least get a share of food and water on the long journey. Later she arranged each woman to be given scraps of material and sewing tools so that they could use the long journey to make quilts and have something to sell as well as useful skills when they reached their destination. She also included a bible and useful items such as string and knives and forks in this vital care package. Elizabeth Fry visited 106 transport ships and saw 12,000 convicts. Her work helped to start a movement for the abolition of transportation. Transportation was officially abolished in 1837, however Elizabeth Fry was still visiting transportation ships until 1843.
Fry wrote in her book Prisons in Scotland and the North of England that she stayed the night in some of the prisons and invited nobility to come and stay and see for themselves the conditions prisoners lived in. Her kindness helped her gain the friendship of the prisoners and they began to try to improve their conditions for themselves. Thomas Fowell Buxton, Fry's brother-in-law, was elected to Parliament for Weymouth and began to promote her work among his fellow MPs. In 1818 Fry gave evidence to a House of Commons committee on the conditions prevalent in British prisons, becoming the first woman to present evidence in Parliament.
Her humanitarian work didn’t stop at prisons. For example, she helped the homeless, establishing a "nightly shelter" in London after seeing the body of a young boy in the winter of 1819/1820. She also campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade and opened a training school for nurses. Her programme inspired Florence Nightingale, who took a team of Fry's nurses to assist wounded soldiers in the Crimean War.
Her work gained her admiration from people in high places. One such was Queen Victoria, who granted her an audience a few times before she was Queen and contributed money to her cause after she ascended to the throne. Another admirer was Robert Peel who passed several acts to further her cause including the Gaols Act 1823. The act was however largely ineffective, because there were no inspectors to make sure that it was being followed.
Fry died from a stroke in Ramsgate, England, on October 12th 1845. From 2001–2016, Fry was depicted on the reverse of £5 notes issued by the Bank of England.
These scenes were built by Dan Harris and James Pegrum as part of a series on important people in British history; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Ildulb mac Causantín
Indulf, or rather Ildulb mac Causantín, was an early King of Scotland, known then by the Gaelic name Alba, who reigned between 954 and 962. Malcom was the son of Constantine II (Causantín mac Áeda) and great-grandson of Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín), who according to the national myth, was the first King of Scotland. Indulf was a member Clann Áeda meic Cináeda branch of the House of Alpin. He succeeded the throne following the death of his cousin, Malcolm I.
According to the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, during his reign ‘oppidum Eden’, usually identified as Edinburgh, was evacuated by the Northumbrians and abandoned to the Scots. This is usually read as an indication that Lothian, or some large part of it, was captured by Indulf. This is possible, although it may also be possible that Edinburgh lay within the control of the Kings of Alba long before this and that Indulf’s gains were part of a longer process of conquest.
He died in 962, with the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba stating that he fell while fighting Vikings near Cullen at the Battle of Bauds while the Prophecy of Berchán claims that he died where his father died, which is probably the céli dé monastery of St Andrews. He was buried on Iona and succeeded by his cousin Dub, the son of his predecessor Malcom I. He had three sons, Cuilén, and Amlaíb and Eochaid. Cuilén would be king between 966 and 971 and Amlaíb between 971 / 976 and 977.
This scene was built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Battle of Langside
On this day in 1568 the Battle of Langside was fought between forces loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots and forces acting in the name of her infant son James VI. The battle, which can be regarded as the start of the Marian Civil War, was a crushing defeat for Mary, who was forced into exile and captivity in England.
In 1567, Mary’s short period of personal rule ended in recrimination, intrigue and disaster when, after her capture at Carberry Hill, she was forced to abdicate in favour of her son James, who was little more than a year old at the time. Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle, while her half-brother, James Stewart, Earl of Moray was appointed Regent on behalf of his nephew. However, on May 2nd 1568 Mary escaped, heading west to the country of the Hamiltons, high among her remaining supporters, and the safety of Dumbarton Castle with the determination to restore her rights as queen.
There she was joined by a wide cross-section of the nobility, including the Earls of Argyll, Cassillis, Rothes and Eglinton, the Lords Sommerville, Yester, Livingston, Herries, Fleming, Ross, numerous of the feudal barons and their followers. Within a few days Mary had managed to gather a respectable force of some 6,000 men.
It was openly declared that her abdication, and her consent to the coronation of James, had been extorted from her under threat of death. An act of council was then passed, declaring the whole process by which Moray had been appointed as Regent to be treasonable. A bond was drawn up by those present for her restitution, signed by eight earls, nine bishops, eighteen lords, twelve abbots and nearly one hundred barons.
At this stage Mary wanted to avoid battle and aimed to establish herself to the west, at Dumbarton Castle. This strong position would enable here to receive reinforcements from the north and form the base for her to establish her authority by gradual expansion. With the intention of by-passing Moray, who had around 4,000 men under his command, she marched on a wide circuit around Glasgow, intending to move by way of Langside, Crookston and Paisley back towards the River Clyde, and then on to Dumbarton on the north side of the Clyde estuary.
However, Moray and his army were ready on the moor close to Langside, which is now part of Glasgow, but was then a small village. Crossing the River Cart, the Regent placed his ordered hackbutters (musketeers) and cavalry among the cottages, hedges and gardens of the village, which bordered each side of a narrow lane, through which Mary's army had to pass. The rest of the army was deployed around the village. No sooner was this complete than the Queen's vanguard, commanded by Lord Hamilton, began its advance through the village. The battle was now under way.
Mary’s army was under the command of Archibald Campbell, 5th Earl of Argyll, who was to show little in the way of real military skill, seemingly hoping simply to push Moray aside by sheer force of numbers. As Hamilton attempted to force a passage through Langside he was met by close fire from the Regent’s hackbutters. Many in the front ranks were killed, throwing the remainder back on those following, and adding to the general confusion. Hamilton pushed on, finally reaching the top of a hill, only to find the main enemy army drawn up in good order. Moray’s border pikemen advanced to intercept Hamilton’s men. Both sides now met in a 'push of pike'.
At one point it looked like Moray’s army might be turned on its right wing, however seeing this, Moray reinforced it and the counter-attack pressed with such force that it broke the Marian ranks. The remainder of the Regent’s forces were then committed and in the face of this onslaught the Queen's men crumbled. The Battle of Langside was over after just forty-five minutes.
Despite the low casualties, which numbered just one for Moray and around 100 for Mary, the defeat was a significant one for the Queen. Over 300 of Mary's men were taken prisoner, including some of her most powerful allies, such as Lord Seton and Sir James Hamilton. Mary fled, first trying to reach Dumbarton Castle, but then turning south to Dundrennan Abbey. From there she left for England, never to set foot in Scotland again. Over the next five years the Queen’s supporters in Scotland continued a civil war with the Regents of Scotland. Mary’s fate however, would now be decided by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth of England.
These scenes were built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Constantine II, or rather Constantín mac Áeda (Modern Gaelic: Còiseam mac Aoidh), was an early King of Scotland, known then by the Gaelic name Alba, who reigned between 900 and 943. The name The Kingdom of Alba is first used during his reign, with previous rulers having been kings of the Picts. This change of title from king of the Picts to king of Alba is part of a broader transformation of Pictland and the origins of the Kingdom of Alba. Constantine was the son of Áed mac Cináeda and grandson of Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín), who according to the national myth, was the first King of Scotland, despite never having such a title in his lifetime. Constantine is therefore Scotland’s 8th king according to most modern regal lists. He succeeded the throne following the death in battle of his cousin, Donald II.
It has been suggested that during the reign of Donald’s predecessors, Giric and Eochaid, both Constantine and Donald may have lived in exile in Ireland, where their aunt Máel Muire was wife of two successive High Kings of Ireland, Áed Findliath and Flann Sinna. Donald's reputation is suggested by the epithet dasachtach, a word used to describe a violent madmen and it is probable that he was killed fighting Vikings at Dunnottar, Aberdeenshire. Early in his reign Constantine was himself forced to deal with Viking attacks, as the Norse were driven out of Dublin in 902 by his uncles and made their way to the western coasts of Scotland, England and Wales. In 904, a battle at Srath Erenn between Constantine and these invaders is said to have resulted in a significant Viking defeat.
In 906 Constantine and Bishop Cellach met at the Hill of Belief near the royal city of Scone and pledged themselves that the laws and disciplines of the faith, and the laws of churches and gospels, should be kept pariter cum Scottis. The translation of this is contested, with propositions including that it should be read as “in conformity with the customs of the Gaels", relating it to the claims in the king lists that Giric liberated the church from secular oppression and adopted Irish customs or "together with the Gaels" suggesting either public participation or the presence of Gaels from the western coasts as well as the people of the east coast. Whatever it means it seems to have been an important step in the gaelicisation of the lands east of Druim Alban.
It would however be events to the south that would dominate Constantine’s reign. Dublin was retaken by the Norse in 917 and the following year Viking armies under Ragnall and Sihtric invaded Northumbria with the aim of retaking York. Constantine sent help and the combined Scottish / Northumbrian force met Ragnall’s army at the indecisive Battle of Corbridge in 918. Further south Edward the Elder had secured Mercia and so when the Sihtric struck there in 919 they were unable to make any gains. In 920 or 921 Edward convened a meeting of kings, in which according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Ragnall, Constantine, Ealdred son of Eadwulf of Northumbria and Owain ap Dyfnwal of Strathclyde "chose Edward as father and lord".
Edward died in 924. His realms appear to have been divided with the West Saxons recognising Ælfweard while the Mercians chose Æthelstan. Ælfweard died within weeks of his father and so Æthelstan was inaugurated as king of all of Edward's lands in 925.
By 927 Æthelstan had seized much of Northumbria from the Norse and so his English kingdom became by far the greatest power in Britain and Ireland, perhaps stretching as far north as the Firth of Forth, in present day Scotland. John of Worcester's chronicle suggests that Æthelstan faced opposition from Constantine, Owain, and the Welsh kings and a short war was fought between the English and Scots, perhaps over the asylum the latter gave to the kin of the recently deceased Viking invader, Sihtric.
However, on 12th July 927 an agreement was made that Constantine, Owain, and the Welsh kings would not ally with Vikings and this seems to have been the case for the next few years. Apparently, Æthelstan stood godfather to a son of Constantine, probably Indulf, during the conference.
In 934, for reasons unknown, conflict between Constantine and Æthelstan broke out once again, with the latter marching north with a combined English and Welsh army. It is said that the army reached as far north as Dunnottar and Fortriu, while a fleet is said to have raided Caithness and Sutherland. No significant battles appear to have been fought though and a settlement appears to have been negotiated, with a son of Constantine given as a hostage to Æthelstan and Constantine himself accompanying the English king on his return south. On September 13th 934, Constantine acknowledged Æthelstan's overlordship.
In 937 however, together with Owain of Strathclyde and Olaf Guthfrithson of Dublin, Constantine invaded England. The combined Scottish, British and Viking force met Æthelstan at the Battle of Brunanburh (Dún Brunde), which is reported in the Annals of Ulster:
“…a great battle, lamentable and terrible was cruelly fought... in which fell uncounted thousands of the Northmen. ...And on the other side, a multitude of Saxons fell; but Æthelstan, the king of the Saxons, obtained a great victory.”
Brunanburh is often argued to be one of the most important battles in British history. It's been cited as the point of origin of the English nation, with historian Michael Livingston argue that:
"the men who fought and died on that field forged a political map of the future that remains [in modernity], arguably making the Battle of Brunanburh one of the most significant battles in the long history not just of England, but of the whole of the British Isles."
Æthelstan died on October 27th 939. He was succeeded by his brother Edmund, then aged 18. His empire collapsed in little more than a year, when Vikings from Ireland under Amlaíb Cuaran (Olaf Sihtricsson) seized Northumbria and the Mercian Danelaw. Consequently, Constantine’s conflict with the English kings came to an end.
In 940 Constantine abdicated the throne in favour of his nephew, Malcolm. It is rumored that this may have been involuntary, however Constantine is said to have been a devout king and he spent his retirement as an abbot, probably at St Andrews.
Constantine died in 952. Following the death of Malcolm two years later, his son Indulf would be crowned king. Constantine’s reign would prove hugely influential with the creation of a new form of Scottish kingship lasting two centuries after his death.
These scenes were built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Victory in Europe Day
On this day in 1945 Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allies ending World War II in Europe. The day has become known as Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day (United Kingdom) or V-E Day (USA), and is a celebration of this event.
Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world, especially in the UK and North America. More than one million people celebrated in the streets throughout the UK to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds. Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.
In the United States, the event coincided with President Harry Truman's 61st birthday. He dedicated the victory to the memory of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died of a cerebral hemorrhage less than a month earlier, on 12 April. Great celebrations took place in many American cities, especially in New York's Times Square.
Tempering the jubilation somewhat, both Winston Churchill and Truman pointed out that the war against Japan had not yet been won. In his radio broadcast at 15:00 on the 8th, Churchill told the British people that: "We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing (as Japan) remains unsubdued". In America, Truman broadcast at 09:00 and said it was "a victory only half won". It would not be until August 15th that Japan surrendered.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on important events in world history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
This year we are building and, Corona Virus notwithstanding, hoping to display a huge model to commemorating the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflwower. Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of blogs about the events that paved the way for her voyage and the reasons for those on board, who have been called the Pilgrim Fathers, for making the risky voyage across the Atlantic and establishing an English colony at Plymouth (or Plimoth) Colony, Massachusetts, America. In this blog we look back to reformations of Henry VIII.
In 1517 the German theologian, priest and monk, Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg marking what is often identified as the start of the Reformation. The new protestant branch of Christianity spread quickly throughout northern Europe, with England becoming one of the most powerful nations to adopt it as the state religion. It was not however initially welcomed and indeed there was a rocky road to the country reaching the point of no return. In this blog we explore how England came to break with Rome.
Henry VIII had come to the English throne in 1509 and was in a dynastic marriage with Catherine of Aragon when Luther published his theses. He was an observant Roman Catholic, hearing up to up to five masses a day. Indeed, in 1521, he wrote a book The Defence of the Seven Sacraments attacking Luther and for this was awarded the title "Defender of the Faith" by Pope Leo X.
Protestant ideas had however been permeating England and the English court, and among the courtiers with Lutheran sympathies was the attractive, charismatic Anne Boleyn who had arrived at court in 1522 as maid of honour to Queen Catherine.
By 1527, Henry wanted his marriage to Catherine annulled. She had not produced a male heir who survived longer than two months, and Henry wanted a son to secure the Tudor dynasty, eager to avoid the civil warfare that had placed his father on the throne. Catherine was now in her 40s and the prospect of another child seemed unlikely. Consequently, Henry decided to ask the Pope for an annulment arguing that it was that this lack of a male heir was because Henry’s marriage was “blighted in the eyes of God”. Catherine had been his late brother Arthur's wife, and it was therefore against biblical teachings for Henry to have married her. It was therefore argued the marriage was never valid because the biblical prohibition was part of unbreakable divine law, and even popes could not dispense with it. However Pope Clement VII refused to annul a marriage on the basis of a canonical impediment previously dispensed.
In 1529, the King summoned Parliament to deal with annulment, however on this matter no progress seemed possible. Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell, one of Henry’s chief advisors, wished simply to ignore the Pope, but in October 1530 a meeting of clergy and lawyers advised that Parliament could not empower the archbishop to act against the Pope's prohibition.
Henry thus turned on the priests, resolving to charge the whole English clergy with praemunire to secure their agreement to his annulment. While the Statute of Praemunire of 1392, which forbade obedience to the authority of the Pope or of any foreign rulers, had been used before using it against the whole clergy was a massive an unprecedented step. Henry claimed £100,000 from the Convocation of Canterbury (a representative body of English clergy) for their pardon, which was granted by the Convocation on January 24th 1531. Henry agreed to a five-year period of payment providing that:
In return, the King pardoned the clergy for violating the statute of praemunire.
From 1532 Henry and Cromwell bought numerous Acts before parliament breaking up the power of the clergy and their links with Rome. They banned from making cannon law without the King’s permission and prohibited from paying more than 5% of their first year's revenue (annates) to Rome. In 1533 the The Act in Restraint of Appeals, drafted by Cromwell, was passed. Apart from outlawing appeals to Rome on ecclesiastical matters, it declared that:
“This realm of England is an Empire, and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one Supreme Head and King having the dignity and royal estate of the Imperial Crown of the same, unto whom a body politic compact of all sorts and degrees of people divided in terms and by names of Spirituality and Temporality, be bounden and owe to bear next to God a natural and humble obedience.”
This declared England an independent country in every respect and expounded a theory of national sovereignty.
Meanwhile, in August 1532 Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham, who had strongly opposed Henry’s annulment, died. He was replaced by Thomas Cranmer who was prepared to grant the annulment, going so far as to pronounce the judgment that Henry's marriage with Catherine was against the law of God. In January 1533 therefore, Henry was able to marry Anne Boleyn. Anne gave birth to a daughter, Princess Elizabeth, in September 1533. The Pope responded to the marriage by excommunicating both Henry and Cranmer from the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1534, the Acts of Supremacy made Henry "supreme head in earth of the Church of England" and disregarded any "usage, custom, foreign laws, foreign authority [or] prescription". In case any of this should be resisted, in the same year, Parliament passed the Treasons Act, which made it high treason punishable by death to deny Royal Supremacy. Finally, in 1536, Parliament passed the Act against the Pope's Authority, which removed the last part of papal authority still legal. This was Rome's power in England to decide disputes concerning Scripture.
Thus England’s break with Rome happened almost accidentally, and certainly grudgingly. Yet by the end of the century England and indeed Scotland were regarded as the cornerstones of Protestant Europe. In our next blog on the English Reformation, we will look at the reforms that occurred during the remainder of Henry VIII's reign as well as those advanced during the short reign of Edward VI. This period ends in 1553 and the ascension of the Catholic Queen Mary I to the throne - the subject of another blog later this summer.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Donald II, or rather Domnall mac Causantín (in Modern Gaelic: Dòmhnall mac Chòiseim), was a king of the Picts who reigned between 889 and 900. He was the son of Constantine I (Constantín mac Cináeda), and succeeded Giric and Eochaid following their expulsion or death. The Prophecy of Berchán, which is not a prophecy at all but a poem written in the 12th century or later, gives him the epithet Dásachtach, "the Madman".
The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba records that during his reign “The Northmen wasted Pictland…” and that “…a battle occurred between Danes and Scots at Innisibsolian where the Scots had victory”
According to the Chronicle, he was killed sometime in 900 by Vikings at Dunnottar in Aberdeenshire. It has been suggested that this event was part of King Harald Fairhair of Norway’s ravaging of Scotland as described in the Heimskringla. There is some disagreement about the nature of his death, with the Prophecy of Berchán attributing it to Gaels, not Vikings, and other sources reporting that he died at Forres.
Donald was succeeded by his cousin Constantine II, while his son Malcom, would become king in 943.
This scene was built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Path to The King James Bible
This year we are building and, Corona Virus notwithstanding, hoping to display a huge model to commemorating the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflwower. Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of blogs about the events that paved the way for her voyage and the reasons for those on board, who have been called the Pilgrim Fathers, for making the risky voyage across the Atlantic and establishing an English colony at Plymouth (or Plimoth) Colony, Massachusetts, America. In this blog we look back to 1611 and the publication of the King James Bible and how this fits in with the story of the Mayflower.
On this day in in 1611 the King James Bible was published for the first time in London by printer Robert Barker. To quote In our Time presenter Melvyn Bragg, it “…wasn’t the first of the several bibles translated into English but it was and remains far and away the most influential”. In this blog we explore the path to the King James Bible and how it became widely available to those in England and indeed further afield. We will also look at how this translation failed to satisfy the demands of the Puritans and how this would eventually lead to around 40 of them to board the Mayflower and sail to America to practice their beliefs.
For much of its history, the Bible in England was not available in any language other than Latin and in the 14th century this began to be seen as a real problem as ordinary people couldn’t understand it and had to rely on a priest to read and explain God’s Word. In the 1370s the English philosopher, theologian and priest John Wycliffe (c 1330–1384) began to officially criticize the Roman Church. One of his chief complaints was that that everybody should have direct access God’s word and therefore the Bible should be translated into English.
Wycliffe’s followers were known as Lollards and by 1384 Wycliffe and his Lollard colleagues had translated the entire Bible into the vernacular Middle English. Wycliffe's Bible pre-dated the printing press but was circulated very widely in manuscript form.
By now Wycliffe's teachings had been rejected by the church, but he had not been charged for fear of a popular uprising. The translation of the Bible caused great unrest among the clergy and so several defensive provincial synods were convened, such as the 3rd Council of Oxford. Under the chairmanship of Archbishop Thomas Arundel, official positions against Wycliffe were written in the Oxford and Arundel Constitutions and so from 1408 it became illegal and indeed heretical to translate scripture into English.
Wycliffe died later in 1384 and by the mid-1400s, the word Lollard had essentially become synonymous with 'heretic.' However, his bible was secretly preserved and read by followers. Wycliffe's Bible was not printed until 1731, when he was historically conceived as the forefather of the English Reformation.
The next English Bible translation was that of William Tyndale, whose Tyndale Bible had to be printed from 1525 outside England in areas of Germany sympathetic to Protestantism. However, it carries the distinction of being the first printed Bible in English. Tyndale himself was sentenced to death at the stake because of his translation work. He was strangled in 1536 near Brussels and then burned. Nevertheless, the merits of Tyndale's work and prose style made his translation the ultimate basis for all subsequent renditions into Early Modern English.
With Tyndale’s translations lightly edited and adapted by Myles Coverdale, in 1539, Tyndale's New Testament and his incomplete work on the Old Testament became the basis for the Great Bible, which was the first "authorised version" issued by the Church of England during the reign of King Henry VIII. Coverdale worked under commission of Thomas, Lord Cromwell, Secretary to Henry VIII and Vicar General. In 1538, Cromwell directed the clergy to provide "...one book of the Bible of the largest volume in English, and the same set up in some convenient place within the said church that ye have care of, whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it."
When Mary I succeeded to the throne in 1553, she returned the Church of England to the communion of the Roman Catholic faith and many English religious reformers fled the country, some establishing an English-speaking colony at Geneva. Under the leadership of John Calvin, Geneva became the chief international centre of Reformed Protestantism and Latin biblical scholarship.
These English expatriates undertook a translation that became known as the Geneva Bible. This translation, dated to 1560, was a revision of Tyndale's Bible and the Great Bible on the basis of the original languages. However, soon after Elizabeth I took the throne in 1558, the flaws of both the Great Bible and the Geneva Bible (namely, that the Geneva Bible did not "conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its beliefs about an ordained clergy") became painfully apparent.
In 1568, the Church of England responded with the Bishops' Bible, a revision of the Great Bible in the light of the Geneva version. While officially approved, this new version failed to displace the Geneva translation as the most popular English Bible of the age—in part because the full Bible was only printed in lectern editions of prodigious size and at a cost of several pounds. Accordingly, ordinary people overwhelmingly read the Bible in the Geneva Version—small editions were available at a relatively low cost. At the same time, there was a substantial clandestine importation of the rival Douay–Rheims New Testament of 1582, undertaken by exiled Roman Catholics. This translation, though still derived from Tyndale, claimed to represent the text of the Latin Vulgate.
In May 1601, King James VI of Scotland attended the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at St Columba's Church in Burntisland, Fife, at which proposals were put forward for a new translation of the Bible into English. Two years later, he ascended to the throne of England as James I. The newly crowned King convened the Hampton Court Conference in 1604. That gathering proposed a new English version in response to the perceived problems of earlier translations as detected by the Puritan faction of the Church of England.
The Puritans were sought to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices, maintaining that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and needed to become more Protestant. In church polity, some advocated separation from all other established Christian denominations in favour of autonomous gathered churches. Politics and religion being deeply entwine during this period, this was seen as a challenge not only to the church but also to James royal authority.
In 1603 the Puritans had issued James with the Millenary Petition, a Puritan manifesto of 1603 for reform of the English church, but James wanted a religious settlement along different lines. So while Puritans were present at the Hampton Court Conference, and the teachings of four prominent Puritan leaders heard there, they were largely side-lined in favour of the High Church bishops.
When it came to the Bible, instructions were given to the translators that were intended to limit the Puritan influence on this new translation. Further instructions were given to not add marginal notes, as James had identified several in the Geneva Bible that were offensive to his principles of “divinely ordained royal supremacy” and to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology of the Church of England.
The new translation had to be familiar to its listeners and readers so the text of the Bishops' Bible would serve as the primary guide for the translators, and the familiar proper names of the biblical characters would all be retained. If the Bishops' Bible was deemed problematic in any situation, the translators were permitted to consult other translations from a pre-approved list: the Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale Bible, Matthew's Bible, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible.
James' instructions also included several requirements that kept the new translation familiar to its listeners and readers. The text of the Bishops' Bible would serve as the primary guide for the translators, and the familiar proper names of the biblical characters would all be retained. If the Bishops' Bible was deemed problematic in any situation, the translators were permitted to consult other translations from a pre-approved list: the Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale Bible, Matthew's Bible, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible.
The task of translation was undertaken by 47 scholars, although 54 were originally approved. All were members of the Church of England and all except Sir Henry Savile were clergy. The scholars worked in six committees, which included scholars with Puritan sympathies, as well as High Churchmen.
The committees started work towards the end of 1604 and all sections were complete by 1608. From January 1609, a General Committee of Review met to review the completed marked texts.
The original printing of the Authorized Version was published by Robert Barker, the King's Printer, in 1611 as a complete folio Bible. It was sold looseleaf for ten shillings, or bound for twelve. In contrast to the Geneva Bible and the Bishops' Bible, which had both been extensively illustrated, there were no illustrations at all in the 1611 edition of the Authorized Version, the main form of decoration being the historiated initial letters provided for books and chapters – together with the decorative title pages to the Bible itself, and to the New Testament.
The Authorized Version's acceptance by the general public was not immediate and the Geneva Bible continued to be popular with large numbers were imported from Amsterdam, where printing continued up to 1644 in editions carrying a false London imprint. However, few if any genuine Geneva editions appear to have been printed in London after 1616, and in 1637 Archbishop Laud prohibited their printing or importation. It would not be until the first half of the 18th century, that the Authorized Version became effectively unchallenged as the sole English translation in current use in Protestant churches. However, general standards of spelling, punctuation, typesetting, capitalization and grammar had changed radically in the 100 years since the first edition of the Authorized Version, and all printers in the market were introducing continual piecemeal changes to their Bible texts to bring them into line with current practice—and with public expectations of standardized spelling and grammatical construction. Therefore in 1760s the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge both sought to produce an updated standard leading to the 1769 version edited by Benjamin Blayney. This became the Oxford standard text, and is reproduced almost unchanged in most current printings.
However, to end this blog we return briefly to the early 17th century and the Puritans. The reforms of James I and his new bible were not enough to satisfy the most ardent of Puritans. Consequently many would seek other places to worship, first in the Netherlands and then, via England and the Mayflower, North America. We will explore these individuals, their motivations and ambitions, more closely in later blogs.
In our next blog in this series we will will however jump back in time a little and tell the story of the English Reformation of the 16th century. These scenes were built by James Pegrum; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
BLOG TO THE PAST
On LEGO, History and other things by Brick to the Past