Wednesday, August 31, 2016

31 August 1888 – Mary Ann Nichols becomes the first victim of ‘Jack the Ripper’

History Extra

The discovery of the mutilated body of Mary Ann Nichols, shown in an illustration from the sensationalist newspaper ‘Famous Crimes’. (Mary Evans Picture Library)

As London’s bells rang in the last day of August 1888, rain was falling. It had been one of the wettest summers in living memory, and there was thunder in the air. On the horizon a fierce red glow seared the sky above Shadwell, where a huge fire had broken out in the dry dock.
Some time between one and two o’clock that morning, a woman called Mary Ann Nichols, known to her friends as ‘Polly’, was thrown out of the kitchen of the shabby lodging house at 18 Thrawl Street, Spitalfields. Fate had dealt Polly a rough hand. A 43-year-old mother of five children, she was separated from her husband and now drifted from one workhouse to another, scratching a meagre existence from handouts and casual prostitution.
Short of the four pence she needed to pay for a bed in the lodging house, Polly once more found herself on the street. “Never mind,” she said, gesturing at the velvet-trimmed straw bonnet she was wearing. “I’ll soon get my doss money. See what a jolly bonnet I’ve got now.” The implication was clear: she was heading back out to find a punter.
An hour or so later, Polly was seen by one of her roommates on the corner of Whitechapel Road, clearly drunk. She had made her doss money three times over, she boasted, but had already spent it on gin and was off to make some more.
That was the last time Mary Ann Nichols was seen alive. At 3.40am, a carter found her lying in the darkened doorway of a stable. Her throat had been slit and her body horribly mutilated. The murderer who would later be dubbed ‘Jack the Ripper’ had claimed his first victim.
Dominic Sandbrook is a historian and presenter.

Crusader Hand Grenade and Bronze Knife Among Archaeological Treasures Retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea

Ancient Origins

A treasure trove of priceless artifacts, the earliest of which are 3,500 years old, were recently turned over to the state of Israel by a family that inherited them from their father who passed away.

One of the most striking gems the family had hung onto is a beautifully decorated hand grenade, of a type commonly used during the Crusader, Ayyubid and Mamluk periods.
Hand grenades filled with Greek fire (burning naphta) was a Byzantine invention that spread to the Muslim armies in the Near East.
They were filled with Greek fire and sealed so that all a soldier needed to do was throw the grenade toward the enemy to eliminate him. Characteristics that made it singular include its ability to burn on water and stick onto surfaces, extinguishable with sand, vinegar, or–bizarrely–old urine. Some historians believe it could be ignited using water.

Although the technology has changed over the centuries, the concept remains that all the soldier need to do was to hurl the grenade toward the enemy and it´s disseminate burning naphtha at impact. The hand grenades we have now are a direct descendent of these contraptions; we’ve just updated the concept by using explosives instead.
An Israel Antiquities Authority employee examining the finds.
An Israel Antiquities Authority employee examining the finds. Photographic credit: Amir Gorzalczany, Israel Antiquities Authority.
The family explained that their father, who was employed at the Hadera power station since its construction, retrieved many items from the sea while working there, which according to the family are quite ancient. The representatives of the Israel Antiquities Authority were surprised by what they found: metal objects, most of which are decorated, that apparently fell overboard from a metal merchant’s ship in the Early Islamic period.
The ancient finds that were retrieved from the sea and turned over to the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The ancient finds that were retrieved from the sea and turned over to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Photographic credit: Diego Barkan, Israel Antiquities Authority.
"The finds include a toggle pin and the head of a knife from the Middle Bronze Age from more than 3,500 years ago," stated Ayala Lester, a curator with the Israel Antiquities Authority. "The other items, among them, two mortars and two pestles, fragments of candlesticks, and so on, date to the Fatimid period. The items were apparently manufactured in Syria and were brought to Israel."
A toggle pin and head of a knife that are 3,500 years old.
A toggle pin and head of a knife that are 3,500 years old. Photographic credit: Diego Barkan, Israel Antiquities Authority.
The seabed of Israel is an archeological treasure trove full of sunken harbors and shipwrecks that hides countless of artifacts.
Last May, divers announced the discovery of beautiful bronze statues, thousands of coins and other finds on the seabed dating to 5th century AD, off the Caesarea beach, which is very near the Hadera power plant.
Just a few months earlier, in February, divers discovered a lump of gold coins, also in Caesarea from the Fatimid era, about the 11th century AD. The finds are assumed to also have come from a shipwreck.
Top image: A hand grenade that is hundreds of years old which was found in the sea.  Photographic credit: Amir Gorzalczany, Israel Antiquities Authority.
By Sam Bostrom 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Publisher Wins Rights to Publish Mysterious Ancient Manuscript that Has Never Been Deciphered

Ancient Origins

The enigmatic Voynich manuscript, an ancient text that has never been cracked despite more than a century of research, is set to be reproduced in its exact form. But if you want to get your hands on a copy, be prepared to by top dollar.  

The Guardian reports that Siloe, a small publishing house in northern Spain, has obtained the right to clone the document after a 10-year battle for permission. The publisher will make 898 exact replicas of the Voynich manuscript, so precise that even stains, holes and tears in the parchment will be reproduced.
Yale University’s Beinecke Library, where the precious manuscript is currently being held, decided to grant permission to Siloe to print the manuscript because so many people have been trying to get their hands on it.  In fact, more than 90% of all the access to their digital library is for the Voynich manuscript.
“We thought that the facsimile would provide the look and feel of the original for those who were interested,” said Raymond Clemens, curator at the Beinecke library [via The Guardian].  “It also enables libraries and museums to have a copy for instructional purposes and we will use the facsimile ourselves to show the manuscript outside of the library to students or others who might be interested.”
Pages from the Voynich manuscript showing various illustrations of plants
Pages from the Voynich manuscript showing various illustrations of plants (public domain)
The Medieval manuscript, which has been dated to between 1404 and 1438 AD, is considered to be the most mysterious text ever uncovered as it has never been deciphered despite over a century of attempts to uncover its meaning and more than 25 different analyses from top minds around the world. An academic war has raged for years between those who think the manuscript contains a real language that could eventually be decoded, and those who think it was a clever forgery designed to dupe book collectors.
The 240-page book, which uses a cryptic language and numerous illustrations depicting astronomical, biological, cosmological, herbal and pharmaceutical themes, was discovered in 1912 by a Polish-American named Wilfrid M. Voynich.  While the manuscript appears to be written in an unknown language, latest finding supports the hypothesis that there are meaningful words and messages within the text.
As for what those messages are, that still remains elusive. Craig Bauer, author of ‘Secret History: The Story of Cryptology’, believes it could be hiding something significant. "It could solve a major crime, reveal buried treasure worth millions or in the case of the Voynich manuscript, rewrite the history of science," he said
Illustrations in the Voynich manuscript, which appear to be related to astronomical phenomena
Illustrations in the Voynich manuscript, which appear to be related to astronomical phenomena (public domain)
The reproduction will be a painstaking process in order to replicate the original manuscript as closely as possible.  The paper will be given a special treatment to make it feel like parchment and the script and illustrations will be made to look authentic.
Siloe is planning to see the copies for £6,000 to £6,900 (US$ 7800 to $9000) apiece. Nearly 300 people have already put in pre-orders.
Hopefully with hundreds of copies in distribution, the secrets of the Voynich manuscript will one day be unravelled.
Top image: A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript, which is undeciphered to this day. (public domain)
By April Holloway

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Face of a Beautiful Egyptian Woman Brought to Life from 2,000-Year-Old Mummy

Ancient Origins

The face of a young Egyptian woman who lived at least 2,000-years-ago has been reconstructed from a 3D print out of her skull. The forensic techniques employed revealed surprising facts about the beautiful woman, who has been named Meritamun, meaning beloved of the god Amun.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia, in collaboration with the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, used new technologies, including CT scanning, 3D printing and well known forensic facial reconstruction. Although, the mummy is incomplete, the remains stayed wrapped throughout the process.
The 3D printed skull of Meritamun took 140 hours to print.
The 3D printed skull of Meritamun took 140 hours to print. Picture: Paul Burston.
As Dr Ryan Jefferies, curator at the university's Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, said:
"This allowed for a non-invasive technique where we were able to see through all of the layers of the specimen, including the remanent muscle and all of the skull," he said. It's a powerful insight into someone's life who lived thousands of years ago. The advances in technology are making it easier. Whereas traditionally there was a lot more speculation, now we can be a lot more scientifically accurate with the data sets that we're using and then it becomes easier to do the reconstruction."
The head of a mummy has spent more than 90 years in the basement, which belongs to the University of Melbourne. According to the researchers, she died as a young woman between the age 18 and 25. It was determined due to the width of her mouth and the positioning of her teeth, and her nose shape and size was determined by the width of the nasal aperture. The researchers also found out that she had quite large eyes. Other parts of the body were lost due to unknown reasons.
The mummy was brought to Australia by English anthropologist Frederic Wood Jones, who joined the University of Melbourne as head of anatomy in 1930. It was excavated most probably between 1907 and 1908, when Jones completed archaeological survey work in southern Egypt to save ancient relics ahead of the Aswan Dam expansion on the Nile.
The reconstruction of Meritamun was just the beginning of the project related to the mysterious mummy. Now they hope to learn how she lived, where she came from and how she died. Moreover, according to Jefferies, the reconstruction is an exceptional teaching tool for students studying forensic analysis and pathology. It may have opened the doors to future works on many of the 12,000 forensic human specimens which belong to the collection from Melbourne.
Facial reconstruction from old skulls is a relatively new technique but is beginning to be practiced more frequently. In July,, 2016, Alicia McDermott from Ancient Origins reported on another impressive female facial reconstruction. She wrote:
''Although she has been dead for over 3,700 years, a woman known as ‘Ava’ became the muse for a modern artist. By combining her ancient remains with modern software and imaging techniques, the appearance of the mysterious Bronze Age woman has been brought to light.
Specifically, the work Ava inspired is a facial reconstruction and the artist who recreated her appearance is a forensic artist specializing in this area. According to Daily Mail , Hew Morrison created the reconstruction by using a variety of techniques. First, he used an anthropological/pathological assessment of Ava’s skull to better determine her age and ancestry.
Next, Morrison said that he “implemented a formula that was pioneered by the American Anthropologist Wilton M Krogman in his 1962 book 'The Human Skeleton in Forensic Medicine,’” to create the shape of Ava's lower jaw, which was missing.
The archaeologist details on her website how Ava’s was undoubtedly a special burial. The remains of the young woman were probably interred in a crouched position in the unmarked rock-cut pit. This is considered rather odd, as most burials from the location and period were underneath a cairn or in a pit dug into soil.
One of the most interesting and hotly debated aspects about Ava’s remains is her skull. Short and round skull shapes were supposedly common amongst the Beaker people, but Hoole’s website says that the Achavanich specimen is exaggerated and of an abnormal, uneven shape.''
Top image: The reconstructed face of the young Egyptian woman. Image: Paul Burston / University of Melbourne
By Natalia Klimzcak

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Royal palaces of the Hundred Years’ War

History Extra

A 15th-century illumination of the Château de Saumur, which was originally built as a castle in 1356 by Louis, the second son of John II of France, and later developed as a château. Painted by the Limbourg Brothers: Herman Limbourg, Paul Limbourg and Johan Limbourg. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

In Seats of Power in Europe During the Hundred Years' War, Emery studies 60 residences of the crowned heads and the royal ducal families of the countries involved in the conflict. Here, writing for History Extra, Emery explores nine of the most significant royal palaces built during the period…
The Hundred Years' War began in 1337 and lasted until 1453 – a span of 116 years – but in reality, the war arguably extended a further 30 years until its final conclusion in 1483 with the deaths of Edward IV of England and Louis XI of France.
The war was not a continuous conflict but one of battles, sieges and armed conflict interspersed with periods of comparative calm or even peace, at least in England. Nearly all the fighting occurred in France, with England suffering only from sea raids and the threat of invasion between 1370 and 1390. However, the war had wider European ramifications, for it extended into Scotland, Flanders, the Iberian Peninsula and even the Holy Roman Empire.
The reasons for building during a war varied from the likely presence in a region of armed forces to a person's financial capabilities and standing in society. The shape and character of a residence during a war was similarly determined by the leader's position in society, but also by his technical knowledge and as a demonstration of his lordship, power, and wealth.
The anticipation of conflict often determined the defensive character of the palaces built by the key protagonists, but it should be remembered that castles as well as palaces were as much a residence as a fortification, with considerable flexibility in their design. Even in war, kings and nobles were just as capable of building a manor house as a fortress, depending on that person's reaction to the political and military circumstances in the region.
The following nine examples show how the different protagonists reacted to the Hundred Years’ War in their desire for an up-to-date residence that necessarily fulfilled several roles in medieval society…


Windsor Castle, England (1355–70)

After a financially ruinous start to the war, Edward III experienced a sequence of successes including victory at Crécy (in 1346) and Poitiers (in 1356 which included the capture of the French king and two of his sons). It was followed by  the surrender of Calais and an accord of peace and financial benefit at Brétigny (in 1360).
Edward signaled his achievements by the wholesale remodelling of the residential apartments within the defensive outer walls of Windsor Castle. He began by rebuilding the keep to provide temporary accommodation for himself and the queen (1355–57) so that the rebuilding of the apartments in the upper ward could progress without hindrance. This new work was developed round three courtyards with the principal apartments at first floor level above undercrofts (1357–70).
The courtyard facade was the earliest example of the new Perpendicular style in a domestic residence, a form characterised by vertical motifs. It was dominated by two gatehouses built for show, with the great hall and chapel positioned back-to-back in a unified design holding two extensive suites of royal apartments for the king and queen. The work was marked by its decorative character as exemplified by the surviving Rose Tower, for most of Edward's work has been overlain by that of Charles II and subsequent occupiers.
Edward III's work at Windsor was the most expensive domestic royal building project throughout the Middle Ages. It still forms the framework for the state apartments today. Equally important is that his development of this royal palace reflected the euphoria of a monarch seen to be of European standing. Despite its fragmentary survival, this work is of outstanding significance – historically, architecturally and artistically.
Windsor Castle in the time of Edward III. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Vincennes Castle, France (1361–80)

During the later Middle Ages, the French royal demesne covered only two-thirds of the kingdom that became France. Paris and the Île-de-France were at the heart of the crown lands, with much of the remainder divided into semi-automatic regions – particularly Flanders, Brittany and Aquitaine. These great fiefs played a major role in determining the course of the war through their opposition to the French monarch. As a consequence of the king's generosity to his youngest son during the 1350s, Burgundy became a fourth and almost independent state.
The reign of Charles V of France from 1364 to 1380 was in marked contrast to the decline in English fortunes at that time. The development of Vincennes Castle near Paris was part of Charles's plan to revive the standing of his country. Between 1361 and 1380 he erected a vast fortress on the site of a royal manor house and built within it a castle for his own use.
The royal castle consisted of a walled enclosure, gatehouse protected, guarding the imposing tower-house that held the king's own apartments. The six-storeyed tower house is marked by corner towers, a projecting gallery at roof level, and a surprising absence of supporting buttresses [a structure of stone or brick built against a wall to strengthen or support it]. Each floor consisted of a spacious central chamber with a smaller room in each of the corner towers. The royal apartments were those on the first and second floors. They were vaulted and heated, embellished with decorative sculpture, wall paintings and paneling. The rooms above were for senior staff and servants.
During the restoration of 1994 to 2007, architects discovered that above the vaults of the second and third floors are diagonal and medial arches spanning the width of the building, helping to support the central column in each central room with iron rods. Iron bars were also inserted in the outer walls and three hoops of iron bars encircle the tower between the fourth and fifth floors.
Vincennes Castle has a very clean and ‘muscular’ layout, with the all-commanding tower house now the tallest medieval one in Europe. The rooms are comfortable and with tapestries and cushions, probably luxurious. The massive fortress that enclosed it was on the scale of a fortified city, protected by nine lofty towers for members of the royal family and household officials, and capable of accommodating several hundred people within the walled circuit.
Vincennes Castle. (© Kovalenkov Petr/


Kenilworth Castle, England (1373–80)

John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, was Edward III's third son. His marriage in 1371 to Constance, the heir to the throne of Castile, gave him a claim to the throne of Castile and León. For the next 16 years he conducted himself as a king-in-waiting of one of the most powerful realms in Europe. In 1386, he sailed to Castile to press his claim to that throne but failed to achieve success. Two years later, he abandoned his claim to the Castilian throne. It was during Gaunt's absence abroad that Charles VI of France prepared his massive invasion of England that he had to abandon, primarily on financial grounds.
In 1373, Gaunt initiated the conversion of the long-established stronghold at Kenilworth into a palace-fortress for himself and his wife. His purpose was not only to provide an up-to-date range of reception, family and staff apartments, but a sequence of great hall and chambers that would outshine all other royal residences in Britain.
His work now stands as a ruin but its scale, richness and comfort can still be appreciated. The first floor great hall above a vaulted undercroft was approached by a grand stair opening into an impressive apartment. It was marked by deep-set windows rising to the roof, a dais bay window, and six fireplaces to help heat the apartment.
Little remains of Gaunt's private apartments, but they were two-storeyed with the family apartments on the upper floor as a sign of status, and were developed in a sequence of increasing privacy. Though in a ruined state, Gaunt's remodelling of Kenilworth Castle is the finest surviving example of a royal palace of the later Middle Ages in England, significant for its scale and the quality of its workmanship.
Kenilworth Castle. (© Davidmartyn/

Saumur Castle, France (1368–1400)

In 1356, John II of France gave the duchy of Anjou to his second son, Louis, who initiated the construction of Saumur Castle in the Loire valley. Louis maintained a lavish court at Angers, where the several sections of the Apocalypse Tapestry commissioned by Louis are hung today as a reminder of its pomp and luxury. Saumur Castle displays the same culture, in a residence that had to be capable of repelling enemy forces of either an English army or bands of mercenaries. But by its scale and magnificence this castle also had to declare Louis' royal position and political authority.
The consequence was one of the most commanding residences of the Hundred Years' War that is both fortress and palace. It stands relatively complete, crowned by a roofscape of projecting galleries, an embattled parapet, tall chimneys and high-pitched conical roofs. The castle is depicted in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry [the most famous and possibly the best surviving example of French Gothic manuscript illumination] to the extent that there is little difference between the manuscript illustration and the structure that stands today overlooking Saumur town and the river Loire.
Three of the four courtyard ranges survive, for the great hall filling the fourth side was destroyed in the 17th century. The ranges were filled with apartments and suites of rooms, which are now used for museum purposes. Saumur Castle is a rare survival of a semi-royal residence of the late 14th century, combining artistic taste with a statement of royal power and a defensive capability if the war spread to its gates.

Pierrefonds Castle, France (1394–1407)

Louis, Duke of Orleans, was Charles VI’s only brother, four years younger than the king but always a disturbing presence at court. When he was in his early twenties, Louis initiated a tower-house at Pierrefonds near Compiègne, which he subsequently developed into a far more imposing quadrangular fortress of eight towers with linking curtain walls.
Charles V had followed a similar practice a generation earlier at Vincennes, though that was on a much larger scale. Even so, Louis’s work (built between 1397 and 1407) converted the site into one of the largest fortresses in France. Work was nearly finished when the duke’s assassination in 1407 brought an immediate end to building.
Unfortunately, the castle's defences were destroyed in the early 17th century on the orders of Cardinal Richelieu. The ruins stood in gentle decay until 1857, when Napoleon III decided that Pierrefonds should be restored as an imperial residence by the architect Viollet-le-Duc (1857–70). The result was a mixture of historical erudition and creative imagining round a genuine architectural core. For many, it is a child's idea of a romantic castle: for others it is a genuine response to the historical structure,  overtaken by the highly colourful imagination of Napoleon III's architect.
Of the original structure, a sequence of defensive outworks preceded the heart of the castle – four ranges round a central courtyard broken by D-shaped towers. Usually four floors high with 30-feet-thick bases, each tower was surmounted by a roofed and machicolated wall-walk, with a second walk tiered above open to the sky. Pierrefonds was therefore protected by two parapet circuits that provided an unbroken route encircling the whole fortress, facilitating speedy military movement.
Viollet-le-Duc sought to restore the original character of the towered circuit during the 1860s, but his reconstruction of the internal apartments was haphazard and illogical. Today the visitor traverses a sequence of empty rooms of a Victorian dream that came to nought, enclosed within a carapace of spectacular restored towers and curtain walling.

Pierrefonds Castle. (© Philippehalle/

Tarascon Castle, France (1402–35)

Like the earlier castle at Saumur in the Loire valley, Tarascon Castle in the Rhône Valley stands as a testimony to the power of the Valois dukes in southern France during the Hundred Years' War. Tarascon was always a place of military and strategic importance, poised between the independent county of Provence and what subsequently became the state of France.
Externally, Tarascon is a fortress: internally, it is more obviously a palace. It is the work of a single period (1402–35), of quadrangular plan with prominent angle towers to the river and to the town. The castle is divided into two major units: an oblong outer court for staff rooms that rarely survive in other castles, and the formidable square bulk of the castle proper. The latter rises from a rock base with few outer windows, a projecting gallery at roof level through which missiles could be dropped, and a totally flat roof. Unlike the multi-towered roofline at Saumur or Pierrefonds, that at Tarascon was replaced by a new wartime development of a stone terrace to support artillery guns.
Internally, the castle was divided into four functional units, the entry towers and kitchen, the reception hall and royal suites, two chapels, and separate apartments for the queen. Though the castle's defences were never put to the test during The Hundred Years War, it reflects a vital aspect of the ambition of the Valois royal line in France. It stands in cultural contrast to their work in the Loire valley, though it is on an equal platform to the family's royal way of life. Furthermore, through little post-medieval changes, the castle's internal layout is relatively clear.
Tarascon Castle. (© Claudio Giovanni Colombo/


Chinon Castle, France (1427–61)

Joan of Arc's success at Orleans (in April 1429) was not marked by an immediate French recovery, but it was helped within a few years by the death of the capable English commander, the duke of Bedford, and by the duke of Burgundy showing his true colours when he transferred his politically motivated support for the English cause to the French king (1435).
Chinon Castle in the Loire valley had long been held by the French crown but  because the English and their Burgundian supporters currently held Paris, Charles VII and the royal court had to use Chinon Castle as their prime residence. They occupied it almost continuously from 1427 to 1449 and then more occasionally until Charles's death in 1461.
Charles made use of the royal apartments that had been reconstructed by the Duke of Anjou between 1370 and 1380. The two-storeyed reception halls boasted fireplaces at ground and first floor level, with the latter being the more important apartment. It is traditionally claimed that it was in this prime reception hall that Joan of Arc first met Charles VII in February 1429 – the more public audience in the hall is likely to have been the second occasion of their meeting.
The apartment range had been developed in the late 14th century and was not changed by Charles VII. The apartments lay in ruins until their restoration in 2007–09, when the apartments beyond the halls were reroofed and floored. They had consisted of staff rooms at ground level and four royal apartments open to the roof at the upper level, but they are now used for exhibition purposes reflecting the castle's importance as a royal refuge during the later stages of the Hundred Years' War.
Joan of Arc at Chinon Castle during the Hundred Years' War. Original artwork from a contemporary tapestry in Orleans. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)

Plessis-les-Tours Manor, France (1464–66)

French success at Orleans (1428–29) gradually marked the turning of the tide in France's favour, with similar success in Maine by the late 1430s, in Normandy by 1450, and in Aquitaine by 1453. No English army survived on French soil after that year. The peace and stability that followed encouraged building to flourish in its wake. Initially it was with a military facade like that built by Louis XI at Langeais Castle, but the future was more accurately reflected by Louis at his manor house at Plessis-les-Tours, three miles west of Tours.
Built shortly after 1464, it is where the king spent the closing years in fear for his life. Plessis is a manor house, not a fortress, brick built with stone dressings, and only two-storeyed. These characteristics, as well as the several tall windows to the ground as well as to the first floor apartments, and the decorated dormer windows, were a foretaste of changes to come. The fortresses of the past were being replaced by large-scale houses that openly faced the countryside.
As he approached his 60th birthday, Louis XI suffered from a wasting illness and spent the last two years at Plessis-les-Tours surrounded by 400 archers – such was his fear of assassination. Yet the manor was gay with colour, decorated with paintings and full of fresh air. It was here that Louis died in 1483.

Portrait of Louis XI. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Eltham Palace, England (1475–80)

Edward IV's foreign policy was underpinned by his keenness to re-establish good relations between England and Burgundy. This culminated in the marriage of Edward's sister to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, in 1468. A few years later, Edward threatened to embark on a military expedition that would re-open the war with France. It is probable that Edward's intention was to exact territorial concessions from Louis XI, but he settled for a financial agreement that included an immediate payment of 75,000 gold crowns and an annual pension of 50,000 gold crowns thereafter.
There had been little royal palace building in England during the 15th century, but Edward IV's financial position suddenly improved in the mid-1470s as a result of  his financial agreement with France. One of the consequences was the construction of a new great hall at the royal palace at Eltham in Kent between 1475 and 1480. The earlier, out-of-date hall was demolished and the foundations for a larger one were laid at right angles to it. The new hall was among the largest apartments in medieval England and forms the principal feature of the site today.
Eltham Palace. (© Truecapture/
It is brick-built, faced with stone and lit by high positioned windows. The raised platform for the king and queen is enhanced by bay windows on each side, while the apartment is crowned by a magnificent hammer-beam roof. The hall depends for its external impact on scale and massing, not on decoration. Internally, the roof creates a magnificent impact: richly moulded, generously proportioned, with suspended decorative carvings and delicate woodwork. Most significantly, this structure was paid for out of French goodwill to avoid any further extension of the Hundred Years' War with England.
Anthony Emery is the author of Seats of Power in Europe During the Hundred Years' War (Oxbow Books, 2015).

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