Category: british history

  • Not every cloud you see threatens rain.
  • A boy is consumed by envy, an old man by anger.
  • A reasonable sufficiency is more righteous than dishonorable riches.
  • One does well to distrust a stream, even one that is calm.
  • Sometimes an old dog growls the truth.
  • It is a hard cheese that the greedy man does not give to his dogs.
  • He who cannot conceal, ought not to become a thief.
  • Whose bread I eat, his songs I sing.
  • All the gold that a king has does not equal this rain.
  • No thief will be hanged, if he himself is the judge.
  • What earned this one praise gets that one a beating.
  • Smoky things appear by day, and fiery things by night.
  • The living husband is incensed by praise of the dead one.
  • A stupid person who is corrected, immediately hates his admonisher.
  • It is not the lowliest of virtues to have placed a limit on your wealth.
  • No mother-in-law is pleasing to her daughter-in-law unless she is dead.
  • A frog on a throne quickly gives up the honor.
  • When you trade one fish for another, one of them stinks.
  • Whoever hates his work, surely hated himself first.
  • To a man hanging, any delay seems too long.

from Egbert of Liège’s The Well-Laden Ship

Here’s the crowd at a football (soccer) match in 1920, in England. See how many hatless heads you can count!

Anglo-Saxon names tended to be made up of two elements, combined to have a particular meaning. For instance, Æthelstan (considered the first King of England united) is formed from Æthel, meaning “noble” and Stan, meaning “stone.”

Within families the first part of a name might be reused many times. It was a sort of marker that people were related – each would get a unique second half, of course. Sharing a name’s first part appeared especially common in aristocratic families. But it seems to have been widespread among Anglo-Saxons.

In the 1000s, when England was conquered by the Danes and then the Normans, new naming practices were introduced and the two-part naming structure fell out of usage.

A shopping list dating back to the 1600s has been found in a West Yorkshire archive. It was made to be given to an apothecary, who would collect the requested items and deliver them to Temple Newsam house near Leeds. Written December 8th, 1644, the list includes a request for 13 bottles of “china drink." 

Before this discovery the earliest reference to drinking tea in England was an entry in Samuel Pepys’ diary from 1660.

Geoffrey V of Anjou was born on August 24th, 1113. He was the eldest son of Foulques V d’Anjou and Eremburga de La Flèche, daughter of Elias I, Count of Maine. Geoffrey was the heir to several important titles and properties that took up a good chunk of southern France. And it did not hurt that he grew into a good-looking, strapping young lad as well. He was often called Geoffrey le Bel for his good looks, or Geoffrey Plantagenet, for the yellow sprig of broom blossom (genêt) that he habitually wore in his hats.

Thanks to some good publicity, King Henry I of England heard enough good things about Geoffrey to decide he was worthy of marrying the king’s only surviving legitimate child, dowager Empress Matilda, the widow of Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. Matilda was less than thrilled to be marrying a teenager who eleven years younger than herself.They married in 1128. Matilda was 26, Geoffrey was 15. The marriage was unhappy – Matilda left him shortly after the marriage for England and had to be persuaded to return – but it produced three healthy boys which was frankly the whole point, to old King Henry I. Their eldest son, named Henry after his grandfather, would become Henry II of England through his mother as well as Count of Anjou through his father.

There was a nasty little civil war first, nicknamed “The Anarchy,” because English nobility really did not want a woman running England. Matilda had to fight her first cousin, Stephen, who was less directly in the line of succession but was born with that all-important Y chromosome. The Anarchy was ended when all parties agreed that Stephen could be king in his lifetime, but he would leave the kingdom to Matilda’s sons. So in the end Geoffrey V was the founder of the Plantagenet dynasty and the Angevin dynasty, which would rule over the united kingdom of England and more than half of France, through the 1200s. It was so large that it got upgraded to Empire status! The Angevin Empire, after their original title as overlords of Anjou.

There’s lots of things that resulted from this one marriage between Matilda and Geoffrey. The War of the Roses, the 100 Years’ War, the Magna Carta…. and all because a blue-blooded 26-year-old was forced to marry another blue-blood who just happened to be 15-years-old.

In 1464 when Elizabeth Woodville, widow of a Baron’s heir, married Edward IV, king of England, it was a bit of a crazy match. She was way below his station. Woodville’s father was a mere knight. Woodville’s mother was the widow of a duke before her remarriage, and related to the royal line of Luxembourg, but in that day and age importance came through the male line, not the female line.

Elizabeth Woodville was also a non-virgin, with two sons from her previous marriage. Royal consort’s virginity was greatly prized at a time when there was no real way to check the paternity of a child. Although as Edward IV pointed out, her two sons did show that Woodville was fertile. That’s something you can’t know for certain with a virgin bride.

Their marriage was secret, and the ceremony announced only after the fact – after a couple months, too. That’s very different from the usual royal marriage ceremonies, involving lots of preparations and lots of tax money.

To make it even more scandalous, this was not necessarily Edward IV’s first secret marriage. He already had at least one child from a previous relationship, who may have been considered legitimate because the child was raised by Edward IV’s mother. Unfortunately, the child’s mother is unknown and there is no record of a marriage. But that previous secret marriage was widely believed to have happened. If it did, and the woman still lived, Edward IV could have been a bigamist. Making his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville invalid.

The icing on the cake, if the cake is anti-Woodville, was that Elizabeth Woodville was five years older than her husband! When they married the young king was 22, and Woodville was 27. Quel scandale!

Residents of North Yorkshire, from the 1000s to the 1300s, were extremely afraid of the dead rising again to attack the living. So afraid, in fact, that villagers would dismember, decapitate, burn, and otherwise mutilate the corpses of their friends and neighbors before burying them. They generally mutilated the bodies shortly after they died, when the bones were still soft. Imagine doing that to your grandma!

Nevertheless, it has to be admitted that he [King Richard the Lionheart] retained the same cynicism about churchmen displayed by his mother in her prime. When the preacher Fulk of Neuilly accused him of begetting three shameless daughters, Pride, Avarice and Sensuality, Richard was ready with a retort worthy of William IX: ‘I give my daughter Pride to the Knights Templars, my daughter Avarice to the Cistercians, and my daughter Sensuality to the princes of the Church.’

No story illustrates more vividly how much he was a son after Eleanor’s heart, but, like her, he was no persecutor of clerics.

Surrounding the famous Stonehenge are the less famous Aubrey Holes, a circle of 56 chalk pits, which rings around the famous main structure. The Aubrey Holes are not a new discovery, they have been excavated since the 1920s. Cremated remains have been found inside the chalk pits suggesting Stonehenge at one point served as a burial ground.

In 2016, archaeologists excavating Aubrey Hold 7 found the remains of 14 women. They ranged in age from 4,000 to 5,000 years old. Because they were buried at Stonehenge, the women must have been high status when they lived. But nothing further is known about them.

And it is interesting that no children were found. Was there a separate burial place for children? Or were their remains treated differently than adults? The new find brings new mystery to this old, old site.