On this day in 1503, for a period of two hours, French soldier Pierre Terrail is said to have single-handedly defended a bridge over the river Garigliano in Italy against a two-hundred strong Spanish army.
Terrial's famous defence of the bridge formed part of the Battle of Garigliano, a battle between a Spanish army under the command of Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba and a French army commanded by Ludovico II, Marquis of Saluzzo which ended in a victory for Spain and established the countries rule in Naples. It was also the second of two major Spanish victories during that year that saw the French expelled from the south of Italy.
Shortly after midnight on the morning of the 28th December in 1694 Queen Mary died at Kensington Palace of smallpox.
Mary's husband of seventeen years was William of Orange. Of her death, William is said to have told Gilbert Burnet, the Bishop of Salisbury that he had gone "from being the happiest" and was "now going to be the miserablest creature on earth".
On this day in 1192, King Richard I was captured in the Austrian town of Vienna whilst on his way home from crusade by King Leopold V of Austria.
Following his departure from the Holy land in October, Richard was travelling in a disguise when he was captured and imprisoned. The English king was held hostage until February 1194, a ransom was eventually paid to release him, part of which was used to build the Austrian town Wiener Neusdadt.
It was on this day in 1861 that Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria died at the early age of 42. Typhoid fever was thought to have been the cause of the Princes's death.
Victoria, of her first meeting with Albert, wrote that he was
"He is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful."
The queen would become so overwhelmed by grief that she would remain in mourning for the rest of her life.
Victoria's prince would first lie at St George's Chapel, at Windsor Castle, he would later be re-interred at the Royal Mausoleum on the Frogmore Estate.
“Tell her what Heathcliff is an unreclaimed creature, without refinement, without cultivation; an arid wilderness of furze and whinstone” writes Emily Bronte of Heathcliff in her novel Wuthering Heights.
Wuthering Heights is a tale of wildness, passion and cruelty, it is one of my absolute favourite books.
It was in the December of 1847 that Emily Bronte's, writing under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, book was published.
Author Elizabeth Gaskell wrote of first seeing Haworth in her biography of Emily's sister Charlotte in 1857.
"Right before the traveller on this road rises Haworth village; he can see it for two miles before he arrives, for it is situated off the side of a pretty steep hill, with a background of dun and purple moor, rising and sweeping away yet higher than the church, which is built at the very summit of the long narrow street. All round the horizon there is this same line of sinuous wave-like hills; the scoops into which they fall only revealing other hills beyond, of similar colour and shape, crowned with wild, bleak moors, - grand from the ideas of solitude and loneliness which they suggest, of oppressive from the feeling which they give of being pent-up by some monotonous and illimitable barrier the mood of mind in which the spectator may be"
Gaskell's description of the landscape around Haworth certainly sounds like the terrain between Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights do you think?
Just the other day my husband and I were reminiscing about television programmes we used to watch that are now no longer on our screens but we think should be. One programme that came up in the conversation was Balderdash and Piffle - does anyone remember it?
The second series, shown in 2007, was the one I remembered. In this series, the panel attempted to find out when and where a particular word was first used and the origins behind it. Some interesting and fascinating discoveries were made in answer to questions such as -
Did anyone go to the loo before 1940? What's so daft about a brush? Plus stuff that was a bit saucy such as is Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset really the birthplace of the marital aid?
Obviously one of the main books used in finding these words was the dictionary, and it was this very day in 1784 that the man who brought us the Dictionary of the English Language died.
Samuel Johnson was an English writer and critic, and one of the most famous literary figures of the 18th century his dictionary was published in 1755 and took just over eight years to compile, there are 40,000 words listed and over 114,000 quotations - quite a mammoth undertaking!
Johnson, it has been said, was
"gruff but good-hearted, independent, honest, deeply traditional, conservative in his values
but bold in defending them full of practical wisdom and common sense."
Samuel Johnson was laid to rest at Westminster Abbey.
Many of the paintings by English artist Edmund Blair Leighton are of the medieval period, he was inspired by medieval chivalric values such as gallantry, honour and courtesy, many of these ideals can be seen in his work.
Leighton always manages to depict an interaction between a couple, focusing in particular on a romantic gesture, as we can see in his work Godspeed and Abelard and Heloise, he captures a certain quality that reaches our emotions which is why I like his work.
No doubt, during the era Leighton covers, there were tender moments such as this between lovers, husband and wives or a mother and her child, but they were equally matched with the emotions of despair and loss as we know with the story of Abelard and Heloise as pictured here.
Their passionate love affair ended in a tragedy that eventually separated them. Leighton captures tiny moments of their story and places in on his canvas for us all to see.
We must remember though, that in reality, the world in which these people lived was brutal a one.
Today in 1472 saw the birth of Anne Mowbray, daughter of John de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk and Elizabeth Talbot at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk.
In 1478 at the tender age of five, Anne had married Richard of Shrewsbury, son of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.
Richard, as many of you know, was one of the Princes in the Tower.
If you click on the link it will take you John Ashdown-Hill's website and his blog on the facial reconstruction of Anne's skull.
What a pretty girls she was.
On this day in 902 occurred the death of Ealhswith, the wife of Alfred the Great.
In the year 869 Alfred was in Gainsborough, he was accompanied there by Burgred who was King of Mercia from 852 until 874. Burgred was the last true independent king of Mercia, whose reign was disrupted by frequent Viking invasions which began almost immediately after he ascended the throne.
This Lincolnshire town was the home of Ealhswith, the daughter of Aethelred of the Earldom of Gaini, from were Gainsborough takes its name.
Bishop Asser in his biography of Alfred wrote:
"was betrothed to and married a wife from Mercia, of noble family, namely the daughter of Æthelred, of the
ealdorman of the Gaini. The woman's mother was called Eadburh, from the royal stock of the king of the
Mercians. I often saw her myself with my very own eyes for several years before her death.
She was a notable woman, who remained for many years after the death of her husband a chaste widow, until her death."
Ealhswith married Alfred in Gainsborough and afterwards they feasted at the Gainsborough Castle, home to the Earls of Gaini. Today, the town's castle is long gone but standing on the site is the towns famous Old Hall. Gainsborough remembers Ealhswith with Elswitha Hall a fine town house of red brick which stands next to Gainsborough's Guildhall, overlooking the River Trent.
Alfred, it seems, despite famously standing up to the marauding vikings, was a superstitious man, it has been said that he did not wish Ealhswith to be given the title of queen, this was due to the antics of a former queen of Wessex who had the same name who had accidentally poisoned her husband. Ealhswith supported Alfred as king for over thirty years and no doubt during this time Alfred considered his wariness justified.
Little is known of Ealhswith life but we do know that she was the mother of five children two of which became great leaders. Aethelflaed her daughter was the ruler of Mercia from 911 until her death, and Edward the Elder was king of England from 899 until 924.
On Alfred's death Ealhswith was bequeathed three estates, one was Edington in Wiltshire, which you can see in the images below, where in 879 Alfred fought against an uncoordinated band of Vikings under its leader Guthrum who Alfred later persuaded to convert to Christianity.
Ealhswith was commemorated in two 10th century manuscripts where it is written that she was
"the true and dear lady of the English"
She was buried in the Benedictine abbey in Winchester that was begun by Alfred but finished by her son Edward the Elder.
History is so interesting isn't it? Do you love the story of King Alfred's unsuccessful afternoon in the kitchen or King Cnut unsuccessful attempt not to get his feet wet? Maybe you're interested in when the Normans landing on our shores or the stories of an era closer to our time?
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Thomas Vaughan: An Introduction
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