Saturday, August 27, 2016

Treachery at Bosworth: what really brought down Richard III

History Extra

Richard III (1452–85) © Bridgeman Art Library/Topfoto

On 22 August 1485, in marshy fields near the village of Sutton Cheney in Leicestershire, Richard III led the last charge of knights in English history. A circlet of gold around his helmet, his banners flying, he threw his destiny into the hands of the god of battles.
Among the astonished observers of this glittering panoply of horses and steel galloping towards them were Sir William Stanley and his brother Thomas, whose forces had hitherto taken no part in the action. Both watched intently as Richard swept across their front and headed towards Henry Tudor, bent only on eliminating his rival.
As the king battled his way through Henry’s bodyguard, killing his standard bearer with his own hand and coming within feet of Tudor himself, William Stanley made his move. Throwing his forces at the King’s back he betrayed him and had him hacked him down. Richard, fighting manfully and crying, “Treason! Treason!”, was butchered in the bloodstained mud of Bosworth Field by a man who was, ostensibly at least, there to support him.
Historians have been tempted to see Stanley’s treachery as merely the last act in the short and brutal drama that encompassed the reign of the most controversial king in English history. Most agree that Richard had murdered his two nephews in the Tower of London and that this heinous crime so shocked the realm, even in those medieval days, that his demise was all but assured. The reason he lost the battle of Bosworth, they say, was because he had sacrificed support through this illegal coup.
But hidden among the manuscripts in the duchy of Lancaster records in the National Archives, lies a story that provides an insight into the real reason why Thomas, Lord Stanley, and his brother William betrayed Richard at Bosworth during the Wars of the Roses. The records reveal that for more than 20 years before the battle, a struggle for power in the hills of Lancashire had lit a fuse which exploded at Bosworth.
Land grab
The Stanleys had spent most of the 15th century building up a powerful concentration of estates in west Lancashire, Cheshire and north Wales. As their power grew they came into conflict with gentry families in east Lancashire who resented their acquisitive and relentless encroachments into their lands.
One such family were the Harringtons of Hornby. Unlike their Stanley rivals the Harringtons sided with the Yorkists in the Wars of the Roses and remained staunchly loyal. Unfortunately, at the battle of Wakefield in 1460, disaster struck. The Duke of York was killed and with him Thomas Harrington and his son John.
The Stanleys managed, as ever, to miss the battle. They were very keen, however, to pick up the pieces of the Harrington inheritance and take their seat at Hornby, a magnificent castle that dominated the valley of the River Lune in Stanley country.
When John Harrington had been killed at Wakefield the only heirs he left behind were two small girls. They had the legal right to inherit the castle at Hornby, but this would pass to whomever they married. Stanley immediately sought to take them as his wards and to marry them as soon as possible to his only son and a nephew.
John Harrington’s brother James was equally determined to stop him. James argued that his brother had died before their father at Wakefield and so he himself, as the oldest surviving son, had become the heir, not John’s daughters. To make good his claim he took possession of the girls, and fortified Hornby against the Stanleys.
Unfortunately for Harrington, King Edward IV – striving to bring order to a country devastated by civil strife – simply could not afford to lose the support of a powerful regional magnate, and awarded the castle to Stanley.
However, this was by no means the end of the matter. James Harrington refused to budge and held on to Hornby, and his nieces, regardless. What’s more, the records show that friction between the two families escalated to alarming proportions during the 1460s.
In the archive of the letters patent and warrants, issued under the duchy of Lancaster seal, we can see the King struggling – and failing – to maintain order in the region. While James Harrington fortified his castle and dug his heels in, Stanley refused to allow his brother, Robert Harrington, to exercise the hereditary offices of bailiff in Blackburn and Amounderness, which he had acquired by marriage. Stanley falsely indicted the Harringtons, packed the juries and attempted to imprison them.
Revolt and rebellion
This virtual state of war became a real conflict in 1469, when, in a monumental fit of pique, the Earl of Warwick – the most powerful magnate in the land, with massive estates in Yorkshire, Wales and the Midlands – rebelled against his cousin Edward IV.
The revolt saw the former king, the hapless Henry VI, being dragged out of the Tower and put back on the throne. Stanley, who had married Warwick’s sister, Eleanor Neville, stood to gain by joining the rebellion.
There were now two kings in England – and Edward was facing a bitter battle to regain control. In an attempt to secure the northwest, he placed his hopes on his younger brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III.
This had immediate consequences for Stanley and Harrington, for Richard displaced the former as forester of Amounderness, Blackburn and Bowland, and appointed the latter as his deputy steward in the forest of Bowland, an extensive region to the south of Hornby. Even worse, from Stanley’s point of view, the castle of Hornby was in Amounderness, where Richard now had important legal rights.
During the rebellion Stanley tried to dislodge James once and for all by bringing a massive cannon called ‘Mile Ende’ from Bristol to blast the fortifications. The only clue we have as to why this failed is a warrant issued by Richard, dated 26 March 1470, and signed “at Hornby”.
It would appear that the 17-year-old Richard had taken sides and was helping James Harrington in his struggle against Stanley. This is hardly surprising as James’s father and brother had died with Richard’s father at Wakefield and the Harringtons were actively helping Edward get his throne back. In short, it seems that the Harringtons had a royal ally in Richard, who could challenge the hegemony of the Stanleys and help them resist his ambitions.
The Harringtons’ support for Edward was to prove of little immediate benefit when the King finally won his throne back after defeating and killing Warwick at the battle of Barnet and executing Henry VI.
Grateful he may have been, but the harsh realities of the situation forced Edward to appease the Stanleys because they could command more men than the Harringtons and, in a settlement of 1473, James Harrington was forced to surrender Hornby.
Richard ensured that he received the compensation of the nearby property of Farleton, and also land in west Yorkshire, but by the time Edward died in 1483 Stanley had still not handed over the lucrative and extensive rights that Robert Harrington claimed in Blackburn and Amounderness.
A family affair
One thing, however, had changed. The leading gentry families in the region had found a ‘good lord’ in Richard. He had been made chief steward of the duchy in the north in place of Warwick and used his power of appointment to foster members of the gentry and to check the power of Stanley.
Only royal power could do this and Richard, as trusted brother of the King, used it freely. The Dacres, Huddlestons, Pilkingtons, Ratcliffes and Parrs, all related by marriage to the Harringtons, had received offices in the region and saw Richard, not Stanley, as their lord.
When Richard took the throne he finally had the power to do something for James Harrington. The evidence shows that he planned to reopen the question of the Hornby inheritance.
This alone would have been anathema to Stanley but it was accompanied by an alarming series of appointments in the duchy of Lancaster. John Huddleston, a kinsman of the Harringtons, was made sheriff of Cumberland, steward of Penrith and warden of the west march. John Pilkington, brother-in-law of Robert Harrington, was steward of Rochdale and became Richard III’s chamberlain; Richard Ratcliffe, Robert Harrington’s wife’s uncle, was the King’s deputy in the west march and became sheriff of Westmorland. Stanley felt squeezed, his power threatened and his influence diminished.
With Richard at Bosworth were a close-knit group of gentry who served in the royal household: men like John Huddleston, Thomas Pilkington and Richard Ratcliffe. They were men whom Richard could trust, but they were also the very men who were instrumental in reducing Stanley’s power in the northwest.
By Richard’s side, possibly carrying his standard, was James Harrington. When Richard III sped past the Stanleys at Bosworth Field he presented them with an opportunity too tempting to refuse.
During the 1470s Richard had become the dominant power in the north as Edward’s lieutenant. He served his brother faithfully and built up a strong and stable following. The leading gentry families could serve royal authority without an intermediary. The losers in this new dispensation were the two northern magnates, Henry Percy and Thomas Stanley.
Richard challenged their power and at Bosworth they got their revenge. When Richard rode into battle, with Harrington by his side, loyalty, fidelity and trust rode with him. Like the golden crown on Richard’s head they came crashing down to earth.

Place to visit
Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre, Sutton Cheney, Leicestershire
Walks, exhibitions and information on the latest research.
Tel: 01455 290429

Dr David Hipshon teaches at St James Independent School in Twickenham. His new book Richard III and the Death of Chivalry is published by The History Press

Friday, August 26, 2016

Stone-Hard Evidence: Researchers Prove British Megaliths Are Connected to the Sun and Moon

Ancient Origins

A team of researchers from the University of Adelaide has revealed an explanation to one of the greatest mysteries of the British standing stone monuments. According to them, the great stone circles were constructed specifically in line with the movements of the Sun and Moon 5,000 years ago.

An article in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports says the researchers used innovative 2D and 3D technology to construct quantitative tests of the alignment patterns of the standing stones.
The project is led by Dr. Gail Higginbottom, a University of Adelaide Visiting Research Fellow, who is also a Visiting Research Fellow at the Australian National University. The researchers explained in their article that nobody has ever statistically determined that a single stone circle was constructed with astronomical phenomena in mind. Earlier, researchers supposed that it may be so, but there was no concrete evidence which could confirm this belief before the present study.
The Callanish standing stones on the Isle of Lewis.
The Callanish standing stones on the Isle of Lewis. (Colin Macdonald/CC BY 2.0)
The researchers examined some of the oldest great stone circles built in Scotland, for example Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis, and Stenness, Isle of Orkney ─ both predating Stonehenge's standing stones by about 500 years. They discovered many fascinating facts. As Gail Higginbottom told Phys.Org:
DiscoverUniversity of AdelaideResearchSunHorizon
"For example, at 50% of the sites, the northern horizon is relatively higher and closer than the southern and the summer solstice Sun rises out of the highest peak in the north. At the other 50% of sites, the southern horizon is higher and closer than the northern, with the winter solstice Sun rising out of these highest horizons. These people chose to erect these great stones very precisely within the landscape and in relation to the astronomy they knew. They invested a tremendous amount of effort and work to do so. It tells us about their strong connection with their environment, and how important it must have been to them, for their culture and for their culture's survival."
The excavation is a part of the Western Scotland Megalithic Landscape Project. Through their analyses, the researchers found an impressive concentration of alignments towards the Sun and Moon at different times of their cycles.
2,000 years later the inhabitants of Scotland created much simpler monuments, but these were also made according to astronomical alignments as well. The examined stones are not only connected with the Sun and the Moon; they were related to the landscape and horizon too. It all combined to become a sort of astro-theater, which was made based on their creators’ knowledge and observations.
Sunset at the Standing Stones of Stenness, Orkney.
Sunset at the Standing Stones of Stenness, Orkney. (Fantoman400/CC BY SA 3.0)
The publication by Dr. Higginbottom and her team confirmed that the ancient Britons connected the Earth to the sky with their earliest standing stones, and that this practice continued in the same way for 2,000 years. Moreover, the people who created the megaliths chose surroundings that would have influenced the way the Sun and Moon were seen. They were able to depict the special time when the Moon appears at its most northerly position on the horizon, which only happens every 18.6 years and took place when the stone monuments were made.
There are about 1,000 stone circles in the British Isles and new discoveries are not so common nowadays.  However, Mark Miller from Ancient Origins reported on May 11, 2015, of new ''geophysical investigations into a stone circle discovered in 2007 in Dartmoor, southern England, [which] show the stones were once standing and may have been arranged in a “sacred” circle with seven other henges in the region.”
Nonetheless, most stone circles have been known about for as long as people can remember or were discovered many years ago and investigated in the Victorian era. Thus, scientists were happy to have the new circle to study - the first found in 100 years.
Grey Wethers - a pair of stone circles in Dartmoor. A view of both circles from the south.
Grey Wethers - a pair of stone circles in Dartmoor. A view of both circles from the south. (Herby/CC BY SA 4.0)
The stone circle in Dartmoor was discovered when workers did a controlled burn of undergrowth in a field to clear it. Radiocarbon dating of the soil beneath the stones showed that they fell about 4,000 years ago. The researchers were certain that the stones had been standing because they discovered packing material near their bases.
Top Image: Callanish stones at sunset. Source: Chris Combe/CC BY 2.0

By: Natalia Klimczak

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Q&A: Is it true that the Saxons didn't have queens?

History Extra

A statue assumed to be of Anglo-Saxon king Otto I with his wife, Ædgyth, who was anointed queen. (AKG)

Asser tells us that Eadburh so tyrannised her husband, King Beorhtric of the West Saxons, (whom she eventually poisoned) that she was forced into exile at the court of Charlemagne, king of the Franks.
The story is a myth intended to denigrate the memory of King Offa and Charlemagne. The poisoning of Beorhtric supplied a convenient explanation for the usurpation of the throne of Wessex in AD 802 by King Alfred’s grandfather Egbert of Kent.
This wasn’t the last time that Alfred’s family used the supposed queenlessness of the West Saxons as a political tool. Alfred’s father remarried, and since this new wife, Judith, demanded recognition as ‘queen’, Alfred and his brothers used queenlessness to guard against any claim by Judith’s children to succeed as king. 
Later, it became customary for West Saxon royal brides to be both designated and publicly anointed as queens. What was not allowed was for a woman, either a wife or a daughter, to claim the throne in her own right.
It was not until the time of Matilda, the daughter of the Norman king Henry I of England, that this was first tried, and it was an attempt that led to civil war. By this time, the kingdom of Wessex was part of England.
Only in the 16th century was English custom set aside so that, as a means of preserving the dynasty of Henry VIII, first Mary and then Elizabeth Tudor were crowned as ruling queens. 
Answered by Professor Nicholas Vincent, from the University of East Anglia.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

24 August AD 79 – Pompeii is engulfed by ash

The Last Day of Pompeii (1830), by Russian painter Karl Bryullov, was inspired by the artist’s visit to the site in 1828. The town was buried by volcanic ash after Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, killing large numbers of residents. (Getty Images)

On the afternoon of 24 August 79, the commander of the Roman fleet, Pliny the Elder, was at home in Misenum at the northern end of the Bay of Naples. He was working on some papers after a leisurely lunch when his sister noticed “a cloud of unusual size and appearance”, rising above the peak of Vesuvius. Pliny immediately called for a boat but, even before he had set out, a message arrived from the town at the foot of the mountain where residents were terrified of the looming cloud.
By the time Pliny had crossed the bay to the town of Stabiae, it was obvious that something terrible was afoot. Vesuvius now seemed ablaze, wrote Pliny’s nephew, known as Pliny the Younger, while “ashes were already falling, hotter and thicker as the ships drew near, followed by bits of pumice and blackened stones, charred and cracked by the flames”. With ash filling the sky, the unnatural darkness seemed “blacker and denser than any ordinary night”.

Barely three miles away on the volcano’s fertile slopes stood Pompeii. That wealthy town was no stranger to disaster – it had been damaged by an earthquake just 17 years earlier – but as the ash began to fall, it was obvious that this was far, far worse.

Almost certainly thousands were killed, though the true figure will never be known. Even at Misenum, where the elder Pliny’s relatives waited in vain for his return – he collapsed and died in the chaos – utter panic took hold. “You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives,” wrote Pliny’s nephew. It felt, he added, as though “the whole world was dying with me, and I with it.”
Dominic Sandbrook is a historian and presenter.

12 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Wars of the Roses

History Extra

Battle of Towton, 1461. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

But, argues historian Matthew Lewis in his new book, the roots of these dynastic civil wars went deeper and the branches reached further than this timeframe suggests. Here, writing for History Extra, Lewis shares 12 lesser-known facts about the conflicts…

1) Jack Cade’s rebellion rocked the Lancastrians

In July 1450, a mysterious man known as Jack Cade led a huge force of common men from Kent into London to protest against the ailing government of the Lancastrian king Henry VI. This episode is generally regarded as being outside the bounds of the Wars of the Roses, but those edges are blurred and elastic.
When Jack Cade entered the capital he struck the London Stone, which can still be seen on Cannon Street, and, according to Shakespeare, proclaimed: “Now is Mortimer lord of this city!” After this, Cade openly adopted the provocative name John Mortimer. The Mortimer line was considered by many to be senior to the Lancastrian line, since the Mortimers were heirs apparent to Richard II – so adding weight to the later Yorkist claim to the throne.
In 1460 Richard, Duke of York would trace his lineage from Edward III’s second surviving son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, whose only daughter had married Edmund Mortimer. The House of Lancaster was descended from John of Gaunt, Edward III’s third son. The Mortimer Earls of March had been considered the lawful heirs of the childless Richard II before he was deposed, and the Lancastrian kings eyed them with suspicion. Was Jack Cade a son of this deposed line seeking restitution?
Many would later claim that Richard, Duke of York had arranged for Cade to use the name ‘Mortimer’ to measure the response to it. Stow’s Chronicle, a Tudor source, claimed that the object of the uprising was to place York upon the throne, and Baker’s later A Chronicle of the Kings of England called Cade “an instrument of the Duke of York”.
Cade – who was captured and fatally wounded following the failure of his rebellion – is a fascinating, elusive figure. Was he a genuine claimant to the throne, a social campaigner, or a puppet?

2) Wiltshire took to his heels to protect his face

James Butler, 1st Earl of Wiltshire and 5th Earl of Ormond, was a good-looking man. So good-looking, in fact, that it hampered his performance on the battlefield.
Loyal to the Lancastrian cause, Butler rose to prominence under Henry VI and fought for the king at the first battle of St Albans on 22 May 1455. The Lancastrian forces lost to those led by the Duke of York, the Earl of Salisbury and the infamous ‘kingmaker’, the Earl of Warwick. Several Lancastrian leaders were killed and Henry VI was injured and captured, but Butler escaped.
Gregory, a resident of London who kept a detailed chronicle covering the early Wars of the Roses, quipped that Butler, then in his early thirties, “fought mainly with his heels for he was frightened of losing his beauty”. Butler wrote to the Duke of York from Petersfield to ask if he could return to the king’s side and, if not, to be allowed to retire to his estates in Ireland.
Butler was on the losing side once more at the battle of Mortimer’s Cross (February 1461) and again at Towton (March 1461), after which he was captured and executed – his looks finally lost for the Lancastrian cause.

3) The friar’s cannon fooled Queen Margaret’s army

The first battle of St Albans was followed by a period of peace, but it wasn’t to last long. By the autumn of 1459, Yorkist forces were massing at Ludlow in Shropshire, from where they planned to take the fight to King Henry VI’s Lancastrians again. Among those marching south to join them was an army under the Yorkist Earl of Salisbury. Yet Salisbury wasn’t to reach his destination unimpeded. Henry VI’s wife, Queen Margaret, got wind of the movements and sent a force twice the size of Salisbury’s to intercept him at Blore Heath in Staffordshire.

Henry VI, son of Henry V, king of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, c1450. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Against the odds, Salisbury won the day but his tired, battered column still needed to reach Ludlow. Thomas, Lord Stanley had a large force in the field within a few miles of Blore Heath, and the Lancastrian army might still have regrouped and pursued their Yorkist foes. Salisbury’s answer, according to Gregory, was to leave one of his cannons behind and pay an Augustinian friar to fire it “all that night in a park that was at the back side of the field”.
In the dark the Lancastrian army and Stanley’s force were disorientated and kept looking for a battle that had ended hours earlier. The clever ploy ensured that Salisbury reached Ludlow safely.


4) Lord Stanley had a lucky escape

When parliament met at Coventry in November 1459 to deliver punishment for those rebels involved in the recent Yorkist uprising, a small piece of business was recorded among the rolls of the session that might have radically altered the course of the Wars of the Roses.
Following the battle of Blore Heath (September 1459) and the subsequent clash at Ludford Bridge at Ludlow (October 1459), Richard, Duke of York and his allies had been forced to flee and were all attainted, stripped of lands and titles for their treason. At the end of the parliament rolls is a call from the commons for Thomas, Lord Stanley to also be attainted for treason. According to the charge, Henry VI had summoned Stanley to Nottingham, but “Lord Stanley, notwithstanding the said command, did not come to you; but William Stanley his brother, with many of the said lord’s servants and tenants, a great number of people, went to the Earl of Salisbury, and they were with the same earl at the attack upon your liege people at Blore Heath”.
Further accusations are levelled, but Henry deferred consideration of them. Given the Stanleys’ later prominence and their part in the battle of Bosworth (1485) – playing a critical role in Henrv Tudor’s victory over the Yorkist Richard III – the landscape of the second half of the 15th century might have been very different had Henry taken umbrage in 1459.

5) An Italian bishop helped the Yorkist cause

Bishop Francesco Coppini of Terni played a crucial but often overlooked role in the Yorkist seizure of power in 1461. Pope Pius II had sent Coppini to England as a papal legate in 1459 to seek Henry VI’s assistance in a crusade against the Turks. His secondary mission, given him by his patron Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, was to encourage Henry to invade France.
Henry’s French queen sent the legate away with a flea in his ear and Coppini retreated to Burgundy nursing his bruised pride. On the continent, he came into contact with the exiled Yorkists at Calais. The Earl of Warwick’s silver tongue flattered the bishop’s wounded ego, promising that a Yorkist government would see his master’s aims met.

Pope Pius II, who sent Bishop Francesco Coppini of Terni to England as a papal legate in 1459, pictured in c1459. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Thus Coppini enthusiastically took up their cause, landing at Sandwich in 1460 when Warwick invaded. When they arrived in London, he preached to the English bishops in York’s support and wrote to Henry VI advising that he grant the Yorkists an audience.
Coppini was present at the battle of Northampton (July 1460) when Henry VI was captured again, but when the tide turned against the Yorkists in late 1460 he was forced to flee to the continent. After defeating an army fighting in the name of, though not led by, Henry VI at the battle of Towton (March 1461) and replacing him as king, the Yorkist Edward IV sought Coppini’s return – only for Coppini to be replaced as legate.
Although Coppini accompanied the new legate, the French and Lancastrians protested against his presence and he was sent back to Rome. He had, however, played a vital role in the establishment of Yorkist government.

6) A double-crossing fighter was knighted for his pains

Andrew Trollope was knighted in the aftermath of the Lancastrian victory at the second battle of St Albans (February 1461). Trollope had been the leader of the Calais garrison, the only standing army in the pay of the crown and therefore the closest thing to a professional force in the kingdom. The Earl of Warwick had brought Trollope and his men to Ludlow to bolster the Yorkist force there, but it was Trollope’s midnight flit to the king that destroyed the Yorkists’ hopes at Ludford Bridge (October 1459).
Chronicles record Trollope visiting the Duke of York at Wakefield and tricking him into believing that he was returning to the fold. York’s subsequent foray out of Sandal Castle cost him his life and increased Trollope’s standing at the Lancastrian court.
At the second battle of St Albans, Trollope was prominent once more in the Lancastrian assault on the Yorkists within the town. The newly freed Henry VI had his son, Prince Edward, knight Trollope on the field, even though, Gregory reports, Trollope had trodden on a caltrop (a weapon made of two or more sharp nails or spines, placed in the ground to slow the advance of horses and human troops) during the battle and been unable to move, protesting “I have not deserved it for I slew but 15 men, for I stood still in one place and they came unto me”.
Trollope’s star was soaring, but it would fall at the apocalyptic battle of Towton (March 1461), where he was killed leading the Lancastrian attack.

7) The siege of Bamburgh cost Sir Ralph Grey his head

By 1464, Edward IV had been king for three years and was establishing himself, but he had not quite eradicated Lancastrian resistance. The battles of Hedgeley Moor (April 1464) and Hexham (May 1464) had seen Lancastrian rebels from over the Scottish border attack Neville envoys from Edward IV heading north. During the incursion, the Lancastrians seized Alnwick, Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh Castles. Two were swiftly surrendered after Lancastrian defeats, but Sir Ralph Grey remained at Bamburgh Castle.
After refusing to leave, Grey was issued with a grisly threat: King Edward did not want to have to damage a vital castle near to the Scottish border, and so promised Grey that the first cannon ball fired at the walls would cost his head. Each subsequent shot that damaged a wall would cost another head, working down the line of command until every man was executed.

Bamburgh Castle in Bamburgh, Northumberland, c1965. (Photo by Lambert/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Two guns named Newcastle and London pounded the walls. A smaller cannon named Dijon found its range and consistently fired shot directly through Grey’s apartment window. The siege was brief, and in spite of the threat the men within were spared. Sir Ralph, though, was stripped of the honour of being a Knight of the Bath and sentenced to be beheaded.

8) A Latin scholar became butcher of England

John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester was constable of England, responsible for the administration of the king’s justice. Tiptoft was a widely respected academic, a talented lawyer and a Latin scholar. His early career had been brimming with promise, and his star had continued to rise under the new Yorkist regime.
In 1470, while Edward IV was threatened by his brother George, Duke of Clarence and his cousin the mighty Earl of Warwick, a clutch of Warwick’s men were captured on the south coast trying to escape. Tiptoft oversaw the trials of 20 of what Warkworth’s Chronicle described as “gentlemen and yeomen”, probably representing the highest-status prisoners taken. After what was little more than a show trial, all 20 were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
To drive home the fate of those opposing Edward, all 20 bodies were subjected to further humiliation: Tiptoft ordered each of the dismembered corpses to be hung upside down. Twenty wooden stakes, sharpened at both ends, were then driven through the buttocks of the 20 corpses and the heads stuck on the end protruding from the bodies. Tiptoft was reviled, named the butcher of England, and when the Lancastrians retook the country, he found himself unable to escape their retribution. He was executed on Tower Hill on 18 October 1470.

9) Nibley Green was the scene of the last private battle in England

On 20 March 1470, two private armies took to the field on Nibley Green at North Nibley in Gloucestershire. One army was led by Thomas Talbot, Viscount Lisle, and the other by William, Lord Berkeley. They had been involved in a long-running dispute over an inheritance that had been stalled in the courts without a resolution for either side.
As King Edward IV’s grip on power slipped in the face of rebellion by his cousin, the Earl of Warwick, men of power began to exploit the vacuum of royal authority created by the trouble at the top. Lord Berkeley won the small battle. Lord Lisle was killed and his adversary paid for building work to the church where many of the casualties were buried.
The battle of Nibley Green was the last battle between private armies in English history, but was a symptom of the coming storm. Sieges at Caister Castle and Hornby Castle were further evidence of the breakdown of law and order.

10) A loyal duke rose from the ‘dead’

Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter was a perfect example of the problems created by the Wars of the Roses. The Holland family had close ties to the Lancastrian royal line. Henry was a great-grandson of John of Gaunt but had married Anne, the eldest surviving child of Richard, Duke of York and his wife, Cecily.
Henry remained loyal to the Lancastrian cause, fighting against his father-in-law and brothers-in-law. At the battle of Barnet on 14 April 1471, Easter Sunday, Holland supported the Earl of Warwick’s attempts to prevent the return of King Edward IV – who Warwick had helped to overthrow the previous year – and to preserve the throne of the newly reinstalled Lancastrian Henry VI.

Battle of Barnet, 1471 - the death of Richard Neville, 16th earl of Warwick. (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)
Early in the fighting, at around 7am, Henry Holland was cut down. At the end of the battle he was stripped of anything of value, as the victorious forces looted the bodies littering the field. At around 4pm, as the battlefield was being cleared, Henry Holland was discovered clinging on to life. His wounds were treated and once he was well enough he took sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.
In 1475 Henry volunteered to serve during Edward IV’s invasion of France. On the return journey he drowned in the Channel amid a storm of rumours that Edward had ordered him to be pushed overboard to rid himself of another with Lancastrian blood.


11) The archbishop of York was tricked out of his treasure

George Neville, Archbishop of York was a brother of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (the ‘kingmaker’).
After Edward IV’s triumph at the battle of Barnet (April 1471) – when he won back the throne, killing the ‘kingmaker’ in the process – George hid his vast wealth. He was, after all, uncertain of his future – even though he personally handed London and King Henry VI to the returning king.
In spite of his brother’s role in the expulsion of the Yorkist king, George seemed to continue in favour on Edward’s return. In 1472, George was with the king at Windsor enjoying the hunting when Edward announced that he would honour the archbishop with a visit to his manor at Moore. The excited George hurried to Moore and began recalling all of his hidden plate and finery to prepare to welcome the king, even borrowing large sums of money.
The day before Edward’s visit, a messenger delivered a summons to George to attend the king at Windsor. As soon as he arrived, George was arrested for treason. His property was seized by the king, his mitre broken and the jewels from it used to make Edward a new crown. Men were sent to Moore to recover all of the archbishop’s conveniently gathered goods.
Imprisoned at Hammes near Calais, George was later released but died in 1476 in poverty and disgrace.


12) A pirate earl created a king

In September 1473, John de Vere, Earl of Oxford captured St Michael’s Mount off the south coast of Cornwall. King Edward IV sent Sir Henry Bodrugan to lay siege to the tidal island fortress. Eventually, word reached Edward that each day at low tide Bodrugan was allowing the earl to leave the fortress and then return unmolested. When Oxford complained that his provisions were running low, Bodrugan had fresh supplies brought to the earl.
The king was furious and sent a squire of the body (a close personal servant of the king), John Fortescu, to replace Bodrugan. Finally, on 15 February 1474, after several engagements and after promises of pardons had lured some of Oxford’s men away, St Michael’s Mount was relinquished. Upon entering the castle, Fortescu found enough supplies to last for many more months.
Oxford was imprisoned at Hammes Castle until his escape during the reign of Richard III, when he joined the exiled Henry Tudor. He would go on to lead Tudor’s army at the battles of Bosworth in 1485 and Stoke Field in 1487 to create and defend the Tudor monarchy.
A soldier, an earl, a pirate, a prisoner, a general and a favourite of the early Tudor regime, John de Vere’s career was a perfect example of the changing fortunes of the Wars of the Roses.

Matthew Lewis is the author of The Wars of The Roses: The Key Players in the Struggle for Supremacy (Amberley Publishing, 2015). To find out more, click here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Remnants of Gigantic Wooden Henge Found Two Miles from Stonehenge

Ancient Origins

Archaeologists carrying out excavations at the Durrington Walls earthworks, just two miles from the world-famous stone circle of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, have discovered evidence of an enormous 500-meter diameter circle of timber posts. Experts have said the finding is of international significance.

In a world exclusive, The Independent has revealed that the newly-discovered wooden henge at Durrington Walls consisted of 200-300 timber posts measuring 6-7 meters in height and 60 – 70 centimeters in diameter. The posts were buried in 1.5-meter-deep holes, two of which have been fully excavated so far.

The discovery was made just two miles from the world-famous stone circle of Stonehenge
The discovery was made just two miles from the world-famous stone circle of Stonehenge (public domain)
Durrington Walls is the name given to a giant earthwork measuring around 1,640 feet (500 meters) in diameter and surrounded by a ditch of up to 54ft (16 meters) wide and a bank of more than three foot (1 meter) high.  It is built on the same summer solstice alignment as Stonehenge. The enormous structure is believed to have formed a gigantic ceremonial complex in the Stonehenge landscape.
The most intriguing aspect of the finding is that the construction of the wooden circle stopped abruptly before it was finished, around 2460 BC. The posts were removed from the holes, which were then filled in with blocks of chalk and then covered by a bank made of chalk rubble. In the bottom of one of the excavated post holes, archaeologists found a spade made from a cow’s shoulder blade.

A tool made from a bison shoulder blade, which would be similar to the spade found in the bottom of one of the post holes.
A tool made from a bison shoulder blade, which would be similar to the spade found in the bottom of one of the post holes. (
According to The Independent, researchers believe this sudden cessation in construction is indicative of a dramatic change in religious and/or political direction, possibly due to the arrival in Britain around this time of the Beaker culture (2800 – 1800 BC). The Beaker culture is thought to have originated in either the Iberian Peninsula, the Netherlands or Central Europe and subsequently spread out across Western Europe. They are known for a particular pottery type they developed, but also a complex cultural phenomenon involving shared ideological, cultural and religious ideas.
The distinctive Bell Beaker pottery drinking vessels shaped like an inverted bell (
The distinctive Bell Beaker pottery drinking vessels shaped like an inverted bell (public domain)
“It was as if the religious "revolutionaries" were trying, quite literally, to bury the past,” reports The Independent. “The question archaeologists will now seek to answer is whether it was the revolutionaries’ own past they were seeking to bury – or whether it was another group or cultural tradition’s past that was being consigned to the dustbin of prehistory.”
“The new discoveries at Durrington Walls reveal the previously unsuspected complexity of events in the area during the period when Stonehenge’s largest stones were being erected – and show just how politically and ideologically dynamic British society was at that particularly crucial stage in prehistory,” said Dr Nick Snashall, the senior National Trust archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site [via The Independent].

Top image: Main: An aerial photograph of Durrington Walls. In the North, West and South, a line of trees handily outlines the shape of the bank, a faint impression can be seen in the East, however, to the right of the road. The River Avon, and the area where the avenue connected it to Durrington Walls, can be seen in the bottom-right ( Inset: An illustration of a similar wooden henge located at Cairnpapple Hill, Scotland.

By April Holloway

By April Holloway

Monday, August 22, 2016

Q&A: When did Italian replace Latin as the language of Italy?

History Extra

Venice in 1338. (Bridgeman Art Library)

Languages can literally die overnight when the last of their speakers dies, but the death of Latin was very different. 
After the fall of the Roman empire in the west in AD 476, Latin evolved into a wide variety of regional dialects now known as Romance vernaculars. In the early 14th century the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri reckoned that more than 1,000 such dialects were spoken in Italy. At the time of Dante, Latin was still used in literature, philosophy, medicine and other cultural or legal written documents. Dialects were spoken, but also used in writing: the earliest examples of vernacular writing in Italy date from the ninth century. 
The early 16th century saw the dialect used by Dante in his work replace Latin as the language of culture. We can thus say that modern Italian descends from 14th-century literary Florentine. Italy did not become a single nation until 1861, at which time less than 10 per cent of its citizens spoke the national language, Italian. 
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Italy was a ‘diglossic country’ – one where a local dialect such as Neapolitan or Milanese was spoken at home while Italian was learned at school and used for official purposes. 
The First World War helped foster linguistic unification when, for the first time, soldiers from all over Italy met and talked to each other. The rise in literacy levels after the Second World War and the spread of mass media changed Italy into a bilingual nation, where Italian, increasingly the mother tongue of all Italians, coexists and interacts with the dialects of Italy.

Answered by Delia Bentley, senior lecturer at the University of Manchester.