Edmund I of England was crowned on 29th November 939 and ruled until his murder, at the age of 24 or 25, on 26th May 946. Edmund was the son of Edward the Elder and succeeded to the throne following the death of his half brother, Æthelstan, on 27th October 939.
Edmund's early reign was characterised by military action in which he managed to consolidate his position and the position of England. Following the death of Æthelstan, King Olaf III Guthfrithson, Viking King of Dublin, conquered Northumbria and invaded Mercia and so Edmund was immediately pitted against him in an attempt to rebuild his brother's realm. When Olaf died in 942, Edmund was able to reconquer Mercia, though Northumberland still beyond his grasp. In 943, Edmund became the god-father of King Olaf of York and with his new ally was able to successfully reconquer Northumbria the following year. However, in the same year Olaf lost his throne and left for Ireland, where he became the king of Dublin and continued to be allied to his god-father.
In 945, Edmund conquered the British Kingdom of Strathclyde but apparantly ceded the territory to King Malcolm I of Scotland in exchange for a treaty of mutual military support. This established a policy of safe borders and peaceful relationships with Scotland, which would outlast the English kind's reign.
In Europe he played a role in restoring Louis IV to the French throne. Louis, son of Charles the Simple and Edmund's half-sister Eadgifu, had resided at the West-Saxon court for some time until 936, when he returned to be crowned King of France. In the summer of 945, he was captured by the Norsemen of Rouen and subsequently released to Duke Hugh the Great, who held him in custody. Edmund wrote to Hugh, apparently persuading him to release Louis.
During his reign, a revival of monasteries in England also began.
According to his chroniclers Edmund was murdered at a feast in his own hall by Leofa by an exiled thief, who was in turn killed on the spot. A recent article (Halloran, 2015) re-examines Edmund's death and dismisses this account as fiction. It suggests the king was the victim of a political assassination and was killed while attending St. Augustine's Day mass in Pucklechurch, South Gloucestershire.
He was succeeded by his brother, Edred.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of England. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see them first.
The Casualty Clearing Station
Last week in our series on Private Wilfred Pegrum, an ancestor of our own builder James Pegrum, we introduced you to the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Chain of Evacuation for the casualties of war. In it, we focused on the Field Ambulance stage of the Chain, in which Wilfred would have found himself following his wounding in the final days of the Battle of Passchendaele.
Following his time at the Field Ambulance, he would have been transferred to the Casualty Clearing Station (CCS). CCSs were situated several miles behind the front line usually near railway lines and waterways so that the wounded could be evacuated easily to base hospitals. While they were often located in permanent buildings, such as schools, covenants or factories, they would often have to move, following the ebb and flow of the front line. Facilities included medical and surgical wards, operating theatres, dispensary, medical stores, kitchens, sanitation, incineration plant, mortuary, ablution and sleeping quarters for the nurses, officers and soldiers of the unit. Normally, a CCS could cater for 200 or more wounded and sick at any one time, however, as the war drew on they would be forced to accommodate up to 1,000. From the CCS men were transported en masse in ambulance trains, road convoys or by canal barges to the large base hospitals near the French coast or to a hospital ship heading for England.
There were two categories of hospital in the chain of evacuation, Stationary Hospitals and General Hospitals. Stationary Hospitals were designed to hold up to 400 casualties and sometimes specialised in certain treatments, for example for gas victims, neurasthenia cases and epidemics. They normally occupied civilian hospitals in large cities and towns, but were equipped for field work if necessary.
General Hospitals were usually located near railway lines to facilitate movement of casualties from the CCS's on to the coastal ports. Former bastions of leisure, such as hotels and casinos were often requisitioned for the purpose, but other hospitals were no more that hastily constructed collections of huts or tents. They could at peak times accommodate up to 1,200 casualties. Some general hospitals were Voluntary Hospitals supplied by voluntary organisations, notably the Red Cross.
If it was unlikely that a soldier could ever be returned to active service they would often be sent home on hospital ships, which were usually requisitioned and converted passenger liners. Due the seriousness of the injuries sustained by the ships’ patients, many died on the voyage home, while the risk of U-boats and sea mines was also a serious danger.
We know not what sort of hospital Wilfred would have been transferred to, or indeed if he ever made that far. We do know however, that he would not be a passenger aboard a hospital ship.
Throughout this project, James has asked his two sons to think about what might have happened to their ancestor, following his wounding at Passchendaele. They continue the story:
The Chain of Evacuation
With the anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele falling last week, we began a series of blogs counting the cost of war, told through the story of one of James Pegrum’s (one of our builders) ancestors, Private Wilfred Pegrum of the 25th Machine Gun Corps (Infantry). In doing so, we are exploring the possible events following his wounding in the final days of the battle and more broadly looking at those involved in caring for the casualties of the war.
Medical units, which were often provided by detachments for infantry, artillery and other units, were managed by the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). At the outbreak of the war there were around 9,000 Warrant Officers and Men in the RAMC, however by 1918 it had grown to number around 113,000. The Corps was assisted in its work by voluntary help from the British Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance, the Friends Ambulance Unit, the Voluntary Aid Detachments and hundreds of private and charitable ventures. Many of the Corps’ members and those of the voluntary organisations were conscientious objector or pacifists, who while unwilling to take a life themselves, would risk their own to save those of others.
The ferocity of the war coupled with the need to maintain high levels of sanitation in an otherwise fetid environment led to many changes in the way medical affairs were handled. One significant change arose from the vast numbers of casualties the war creating, which meant that it was impossible for surgeons to evaluate and practice successfully on the front lines. It was recognised that a man’s chances of survival depended on how quickly his wound could be treated and therefore the ability to efficiently and rapidly move casualties away from the front was required. For this reason the system known as the Chain of Evacuation was established. Each section of the chain, which included Regimental Aid Posts, Field Ambulances, Casualty Clearing Stations and hospitals, had its own role, with the ultimate aim of dealing effectively with all medical matters and making sure the army remained an effective fighting force.
In our model we show Wilfred’s journey through the Chain of Evacuation, with him now in the care of his regiment’s Field Ambulance. Field Ambulances were mobile front-line medical units for treating the wounded before they were transferred to a Casualty Clearing Station and then onto a hospital. They comprised stretcher-bearers, an operating tent, tented wards, nursing orderlies, cookhouse, washrooms and a horse drawn or motor ambulance. Here, Men would be assessed, labelled with information about their injury and treatments and be prioritized in a procedure known as triage. This would be the final stage of the Chain for many men, their wounds so severe that morphia and other pain killing drugs was the only treatment.
While the RAMC was not a fighting force, its members were subjected to the full horror of war. They performed their duties unarmed and in the process lost no less than 6,873 personnel. Even to this day, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is still adding names to their roll of honour.
Throughout this project, James has asked his two sons to think about what might have happened to their ancestor, following his wounding at Passchendale. They continue the story:
On this day in 1577, Francis Drake set sail from Plymouth on what was supposed to be an expedition against the Spanish along the Pacific coast of the Americas.
The journey was however cut short due to poor weather conditions that threatened his little fleet of five ships. The storm was so strong that the mast of Drake's flagship, Pelican, later to be renamed The Golden Hinde, had to be cut overboard to save it. Another ship, Marigold, was driven ashore and, according to Francis Petty, one of Drake's Gentlemen at Arms, was left "...somewhat bruised". The fleet was forced to take refuge in Falmouth, Cornwall, from where it returned to Plymouth for repair.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on important events in British history; Drake's story is to be continued...
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Henry and Matilda
On this day in 1100 King Henry I of England married Matilda, daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland. According to historian Warren Hollister, Henry and Matilda were emotionally close, but their union was also politically motivated. Matilda was a member of the West Saxon royal family, being the niece of Edgar Ætheling, the great-granddaughter of Edmund Ironside and a descendant of Alfred the Great. Marrying Matilda gave Henry's reign increased legitimacy, and and gave future English monarchs a direct line back to the Saxon Royal House. As she was brother to Edgar, who was king of Scotland between 1097 and 1107 and Alexander I who succeeded him, It also bought closer relations with England's northern neighbour, which in the past had often disintegrated into conflict and violence.
Henry was the fourth son of William the Conqueror and brother of his predecessor William II, often known as William Rufus. He was present at his brother's death, which was possibly a murder.
His reign ran between 2nd August 1100 and 1st December 1135. He is reputed to have been an effective ruler, although some consider him harsh. He skilfully manipulated the barons in England and Normandy. In England, he built on the existing Anglo-Saxon system of justice, local government and taxation. He encouraged ecclesiastical reform, but became embroiled in a serious dispute in 1101 with Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury, which was resolved through a compromise solution in 1105.
Matilda was intelligent and resourceful and wielded a level of agency that was uncommon for women of the time, taking an active role in government when her husband was away; many surviving charters are signed by her. She took a great interest in architecture and instigated the building of many Norman-style buildings, including Waltham Abbey and Holy Trinity Aldgate. She also commissioned the building of the first arched bridge in England, at Stratford-le-Bow, as well as a bathhouse with piped-in water and public lavatories at Queenhithe. Her court was one of literature and culture, filled with musicians and poets. She was also pious and sympathetic with the poor, with William of Malmesbury describing her as attending church barefoot at Lent, and washing the feet and kissing the hands of the sick.
Henry and Matilda had two children. Their daughter Matilda would become Holy Roman Empress, German Queen and Queen of Italy while their son William Adelin would die in the White Ship disaster of 1120.
Henry's failure to produce a legitimate son from his second marriage led to the succession crisis of The Anarchy.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of England. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see them first.
Passchendaele: Counting the Cost
On this day in 1917, the Battle of Passchendaele came to an end after three months, one week and three days. The battle would go down as one of the bloodiest in history and while the number of casualties is disputed to this day, it is estimated that Passchendaele resulted in around 585,000 casualties. These included the physically injured, some who would have lived on to tell their tale, others however, would die later.
Over the next month we will be exploring the story of one of our builders' ancestors, a man named Wilfred Pegrum, who sadly numbered among these casualties. The exact details of the events leading to Wilfred's death are unknown, however certain records lead to a rough chronology and so a simple model that was originally intended to commemorate the start of the battle on July 31st, turned into a investigation into James Pegrum' family history.
With the anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele approaching, James decided to investigate his family's involvement in the First World War. Having spoken with his family it seemed that there were no direct members that had served in World War One, on his mother or fathers side. As a result the net spread further, with a focus on the male Pegrum line, a somewhat unusual surname, with the family in past years predominantly coming from a village in Essex called Nazing. It was discovered that fourteen Pergum's had died during the War, one of them, Wilfred, was known to James' father, as his name was on a memorial plaque on a church in Nazing. Wilfred died shortly after the to Battle of Passchendale, however, how he died was not clear.
In our next blog we will look a little more at what might have happened to Wilfred Pegrum, depicted in our model being carried on a stretcher. Through the series we will also be looking more broadly at how the war wounded were treated at the time.
James was keen to include his two sons in the research process and to think about what might have happened to their long dead ancestor. As part of this he asked them to imagine what they thought might have happened to Wilfred during the final days of the Battle of Passchendale.
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot
The Fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot;
For I see no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
On this day in 1605, Guy Fawkes was discovered in a cellar under the House of Lords with 36 barrels of gunpowder. He was there carrying out part of what is now known as the Gunpowder Plot, a failed attempt to assassinate King James I of England and VI of Scotland. The thwarting of the Plot is commemorated every year on Bonfire Night.
The plotters, who were led by Robert Catesby, were Catholics, who having suffered years of persecution under Elizabeth I had hoped James, who became king in 1603, would be better deposed to them. While initial signs were good, following an earlier failed plot and the need to satisfy the Puritans in his Parliament, in February 1604 the king publicly announced his 'utter detestation' of Catholicism. Consequently, Catholic hopes were not met and the Gunpowder plotters began to draw their plans.
The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of England's Parliament on 5 November 1605, at which James and many other important figures would be present. It would be a prelude to a popular revolt in the Midlands during which James's nine-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, would be installed at the Catholic head of state.
The plotters leased a small house in the heart of Westminster, installing Fawkes as caretaker under the alias of John Johnson. In March 1605 the group took out another lease on a ground-floor cellar close by the house. The cellar lay directly beneath the House of Lords and over the following months, 36 barrels of gunpowder were moved in, enough to completely destroy the chamber above, if ignited. Fawkes, who had 10 years of military experience fighting in the Spanish military, was given charge of the explosives.
The plot was however revealed when an anonymous letter was sent on the 26th October to William Parker, Baron Monteagle, warning him to avoid the house on the 5th November. He took it to Cecil, Earl of Salisbury who was already aware of certain stirrings, but did not yet know the exact nature of the plot, or who exactly was involved. He therefore elected to wait to see how events would unfold. Searches of the House was ordered on the 5th; the first found a suspiciously large amount of firewood in one of the cellars. The second, at around midnight, found Fawkes and his gunpowder.
Fawkes was arrested immediately, although he gave only his alias. Another plotter,Thomas Percy, had already been linked with the cellar and house, and a warrant for his arrest was also issued. Fawkes was interrogated, however little had been learned by the following day and so James I gave permission to use torture, gradually 'proceeding to the worst'. It took several days to illicit any useful information, however on the 8th November, most of the other plotters were caught, while Catesby, Percy and two others were killed fighting in an attempt to evade capture. The last remaining plotter, Robert Wintour, was captured in the New Year.
At their trial on 27th January 1606, eight of the surviving plotters, including Fawkes, were convicted and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, which was carried out on the 30th and 31st.
The impact on ordinary Catholics would be immense and last several centuries. New laws were passed preventing them from practising law, serving as officers in the military, or standing or voting in local or Parliamentary elections. They became the scapegoat for many tragic event, including the Great Fire of London of 1666. While penal laws started to be dismantled from around 1766 , it would not be until the Roman Catholic Relief Act on 1829 that the most substantial restrictions would be lifted, including the right to vote. It was not until 2011 that the law barring a British monarch from marrying a Catholic was lifted, while the monarch cannot be a Catholic to this day.
The conversion of James II of England and VII of Scotland to Catholicism in around 1668 and the prospect of a Catholic monarchy in England led directly to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when William of Orange was invited to take the thrones. This in turn led to the Jacobite Risings, which took place between 1689 and 1746 and were Britain’s last civil wars. The Jacobite Risings are the subject of our big build of 2017, designed to coincide with Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Last month we unveiled its full 16 metre square extent at the Great Western Brick Show and are pleased to announce that it will soon be on display once more at a venue in Scotland. Stay tuned for the big announcement!
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see them first.
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