Surely, that would only work once, wouldn't it?
The Halloween tradition of placing a candle into a hollowed-out pumpkin and using them as lanterns seems to be a relatively modern tradition in England that I associate with the United States, yet it seems that here in England we do have a similar tradition.
On the last Thursday in October in the Somerset village of Hinton St George, the local children carry lanterns that they call Punkies, these lanterns are carved from mangel-wurzles. These root vegetables are decorated by cutting the skin to make patterns for the light to shine through, it seems that a crucial part of this task is that the cutting does not make an actual hole.
As with most traditions, Punkie Night in Somerset can be traced back a few hundred years when lanterns were made by the women of the village who were left at home whilst their husbands spent the whole day drinking at the annual fair in the neighbouring village of Chiselborough. As dusk arrived, the women with the candlelit mangle-wuzles, made their way to the fair. Seeing the pale faced ghostly spectres hovering in the air so frightened the menfolk they couldn't wait to get home.
Surely, that would only work once, wouldn't it?
Birth of George Duke of Clarence
On this day in 1449 the birth in Dublin of George, Duke of Clarence to Richard, Duke of York and Cecily Neville.
George's life is viewed as a long list of facts that give us some insight into his life and there isn't much written about Clarence as a person at all so because of this Clarence's character is hard to define. However, I have often wondered if we could apply the modern term 'middle child syndrome' to help understand his personality. Maybe it was his position within his family that made him the man he was, looking at the personality traits of a modern 'middle child' surprisingly Clarence fits the 'profile' on a number of points.
1. Middle children are not particularly interested in family hierarchy or ranking:
Clarence could not have cared less that his brother was king, he would undermine him given an opportunity, he had joined in all the careless talk, calling into question the legitimacy of the kings birth. His later actions had convinced Edward that he was looking to take the throne out from under him.
2. Middle children are more interested in taking advice from others outside the main family group:
Clarence was reliant on his cousin Richard Neville rather than Edward or Richard. He took Neville's 'advice' on more than one occasion, joining him in supporting a northern rebellion and went along with the idea to restore King Henry VI to the throne of England, realising too late that listening to Neville was not a good idea after all.
3. Middle children are risk takers and are more rebellious than their siblings:
Clarence certainly ticks both these boxes. By rebelling with Neville, Clarence risked everything and lost. He lost his position as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and by organising yet another rebellion, because of the loss of his Warwick lands to Richard, he caused a major rift that was ultimately the last nail in his coffin.
4. Middle children don't like conflict:
This is one category that Clarence doesn't fit into.
Of course, Clarence wasn't a middle child at all, he was number six of seven so you could argue that this hypothesis doesn't make any sense at all.....but it does if you look at it from the point of view that he was eventually slap bang in the middle of three boys. His older brother Edmund had died at the Battle of Wakefield aged just seventeen, I wonder if he had lived he would have shown the same personality traits as Clarence or would Clarence have been a different person altogether?
Supposition this may be, but whatever the cause Clarence turned out to be a weak self-centred man, and in the end, it was greed and jealousy that cost him his life.
Death of King John at Newark Castle
Today in 1216, at Newark Castle in Nottinghamshire, occurred the death, probably from dysentery, of King John.
Fleeing a French invasion John had previously taken a safe route around the marshy area of the Wash in Lincolnshire to avoid the rebel-held area of East Anglia. He had travelled from Spalding to a town where he was well liked, Bishops Lynn, now Kings Lynn in Norfolk where he had previously granted a royal charter. The king eventually arrived in Nottinghamshire and was here at his castle in Newark that he was taken ill and had decided not to continue the journey.
No one likes King John very much, this is reflected in his position at the top of the leader board every time there is a vote for England's worst king. This always irritates me, in my opinion, John was born into what today we would call a dysfunctional family- squabbling parents, the youngest son, a spoilt and show off older brother. As a king he had to deal with grumpy barons, a bankrupt country and had no support from his people, what chance did he have?
W L Warren sums up fairly accurately in my view the cause of his troubled reign.
'talented in some respects, good at administrative detail, but suspicious, unscrupulous, and mistrusted.
His crisis-prone career was sabotaged repeatedly by the half-halfheartedness with which his vassals supported
him and the energy with which some of them opposed him.'
English chronicler Matthew Paris wrote that John was
“Foul as it is, hell itself is made fouler by the presence of King John."
even noted children's authors get in on the act, A A Milne writing:
King John was not a good man
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.
So there you have it, on the whole, King John is seen a wicked and villainous and his reign a catastrophic failure - personally, I'd say he was unlucky.
Birth of Catherine of Valois
Catherine of Valois, the beautiful and virtuous Kate from Shakespeare's Henry V is defined by the events of her later life, her marriage to Henry V, a suspected relationship with Edmund Beaufort, her affair with Owen Tudor and the ill-treatment of her body by diarist Samuel Pepys. However, little is known of her childhood and early life.
Catherine of Valois was born in Paris on the 27th October in 1401. She was the ninth child and the fifth daughter of King Charles VI of France and his queen, Isabella of Bavaria. Cathrine was born while France was in turmoil - the beginnings of a power struggle at home and the continuing conflict with the enemy over the sea, the English.
It is thought that Catherine had a troubled childhood and indeed she may have witnessed at first hand her father's bouts of mental illness and her mother struggling to come to terms with the situation. History tells us of the poverty ridden French court, but it doesn't tell us how it all affected her, and historians differ in their view of Catherine's upbringing, some suggest that her mother was cold and cruel and openly flaunted her lovers about court, while other say that she was kind, generous and very close to all her children.
By the time Catherine was seven years old, English king Henry IV was looking for peace with France, he considered that a match between his son and a French princess would bring this about and therefore the subject was discussed on and off over the following years, eventually though Catherine was betrothed to the future Henry V.
Shakespeare writes of their meeting
"You have witchcraft in your lips, Kate: there is more eloquence in a sugar touch of them than in the tongues
of the French council, and they should sooner persuade Harry of England than a general petition of monarchs."
These sweet and seductive words to Catherine would succeed where seventy years of battling did not.
Henry and Catherine were betrothed on 21st May 1420, they were married within a few weeks and Catherine would be a widow just over fifteen months later. Catherine son from her marriage to Henry V was Henry VI, his weak rule would bring about the Wars of the Roses and from Catherine's relationship with the son of a Welsh publican the mighty Tudor dynasty sprang.
Death of Marie Antoinette
On the 15th October 1793 Marie Antoinette had been tried and found guilty on charges of treason, conspiracy and collusion with domestic and foreign enemies, a fifth charge, that of incest was dropped.
Early in the morning of the 16th, Louis XVI's queen wrote a letter to her sister, in this letter she stated that she had a clear conscience, that she loved, and was concerned for, the future of her children, the letter was taken from her but never delivered. By midday the she was climbing the steps of the scaffold. History tells us that Marie accidentally stood on the foot of her executioner and said "Pardon me, sir, I meant not to do it" but just a few minutes later, at 12.15, the much despised Marie Antoinette was dead and her body was unceremoniously thrown into an unmarked grave.
There can be no doubt that Marie Antoinette was despised and hated, to the the French people she represented the vices of wealth and greed and more importantly aristocracy and absolutism. Even her contemporary, Mary Wollstonecraft, who was an advocate of women's rights and a supporter of the French revolutionaries, places the blame squarely on queen's shoulders. Despite the passing of two centuries this view prevails, however there are those who believe that she was misunderstood and as much a victim of the revolution as the hundreds of others who went to the guillotine.
The sketch below was drawn as Marie Antoinette was paraded through the crowd on the way to her execution, you can see that she wears a white dress and that her long blonde hair has been cut - was this an attempt on the part of the revolutionaries to show how even the mighty can be toppled or an attempt by the queen herself to show that she was indeed a innocent victim.
Edgar Aetheling Proclaimed King
After his victory at the Hasting William the Conqueror headed for London. He left behind, among the dead, the mutilated body of the defeated English king Harold Godwinson.
The following day, the 15th October 1066 as the mighty conqueror's army made their way to the capital, Edgar Aetheling, one of three claimants to English throne was proclaimed king. Aetheling had the support of both the Ealdred, Archbishop of York, Stigand Archbishop of Canterbury and the Earls of Northumbria Edwin and Morcar.
If Edgar Aetheling could take on the Norman army, his future, as king, would be secured.
However, as the noise of the approaching Norman army headed their way Edgar's cause was abandoned and the men, who initially supported him, began frantically feathering their own nests.
Edgar Aetheling was taken as a captive to Normandy from where he escaped. By 1068 he was in the Scottish court of King Malcolm III, who was his sister's husband. However, by 1097 Edgar was leading an English invasion against Scotland.
Eighteen years later it was reported by William of Malmesbury that Aetheling was still alive in 1125 Malmesbury wrote
‘he now grows old in the country in privacy and quiet.’
On the 16th October in 1813, the Battle of Leipzig, also known as the Battle of the Nations began, it was to last for three days.
This battle was fought by the coalition armies of Prussia, Russia, Austria and Sweden against the French. By the end of this battle between 90,000 and 100,000 men lay dead or wounded.
The Battle of Leipzig was the single largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars. The total amount of men taking part numbered between 625,000 soldiers, 430,000 coalition forces against 195,000 French. At the end of the battle the French were defeated and Napoleon returned home. A year later the coalition forces invaded France forcing Napoleon to abdicate and into exile. The Battle of Leipzig, with a fire power of 2,200 guns, was the biggest military engagement in Europe until the First World War.
I always think of the Napoleonic Wars in terms of 'modern warfare,' a dividing line between the medieval and modern battles fought from 1914 on wards, but what sets these battles apart from what I think of as modern combat are the relative proximity of the armies to each other upon the battle field. In this they were fought just like many a medieval battle, on a single field with units in close formation, massed ranks stretching out over the rolling countryside and opposing sides facing each other fighting over a short period of time. Modern warfare however is highly complex, it is military theatre fought with increasingly high tech conventional weapons for reasons that completely flummox me.
Of modern warfare Ernest Hemingway wrote:
"They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country. But in modern war,
there is nothing sweet nor fitting in you dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason."
Death of a Hero: Horatio Nelson
In the July of 1794, English Admiral Horatio Nelson, lost the sight in his right eye at the Siege of Calvi, and on the 25th July 1797 he was shot in the arm at the Battle of Santa Cruz.
According to the ships surgeon, Nelson sustained a
"Compound fracture of the right arm by a musket ball passing through a little above the elbow;
an artery divided; the arm was immediately amputated."
Eight years later, Nelson would receive another injury that would prove fatal.
On the 21st of October 1805, the Battle of Trafalgar took place between the combined forces of the French and Spanish navy and the English under Nelson as part of the Napoleonic Wars. The battle resulted in the loss of nineteen French and Spanish ships and 6,953 enemy casualties. Among the English there were 1,690 casualties and no loss of ships.
The Battle of Trafalgar was a celebrated victory for the English forces but the death of Nelson on the deck of HMS Victory was a massive loss for the country and to the men who fought under him. It was noted that many of his men did
"nothing but blast their eyes and cry ever since he was killed. Chaps that fought like the Devil, sit down and cry like a wench"
A bullet had entered Horatio Nelson's left shoulder, passed through his spine and lodged two inches below his right shoulder blade, when Nelson was close to death, he famously asked Vice Admiral Hardy to take care of his mistress Lady Hamilton and to kiss him. Hardy kissed him on the cheek and Nelson asked who it was
"It is Hardy" he said "God bless you Hardy" was Nelson's response.
This great hero's last words were
“Thank God I have done my duty”.
Such a hero was Nelson that I named my very first cat after him, and yes he did have a patch over one eye.
Battle of Agincourt
Almost eighty years into the Hundred Years War, on Friday, October 25, 1415, Saint Crispin's Day, Henry V of England met the French army led by the Constable Charles d'Albret in Northern France, near the present-day town of Agincourt.
Estimates are that the English were outnumbered from 2 to 1 to as much as 4 to 1. Most of the English were archers and dismounted knights, while most of the French were mounted knights. Some crossbow mercenaries were part of the French force too. But they had a limited range compared to the long bow, and also took a lot longer to reload and re-shoot their weapon.
Before the battle, which Henry was actually trying to avoid, he ordered the archers to find and sharpen both ends of a six-foot wooden stick. These were then hammered into the soft ground of the plain where the battle ultimately took place. It rained the night before the battle, and there was mud and soft earth all throughout the battleground. The wooden stakes were pointed outwards, towards the French lines. When the French knights on horseback charged the English archers, many of the horses would not advance through the thicket of sharpened points. Archers picked off horses and knights from a distance and at close range. French knights and men at arms were trapped by their heavy armor in the mud, becoming easy prey for the outnumbered English. the French who had not been killed or stuck in the melee fled.
Some say that the French knights had issued threats that, if they caught any archers from the English side, they would cut off their inside fingers, so they could not pull back a bow string. To taunt these French knights, the English archers held up their middle fingers to show they still had them.
Noble French prisoners, who could have been sold for rich ransoms, were ordered killed after the French retreat. Henry was worried these prisoners would rise up and attack the English from behind if, or when, another wave of French knights appeared to engage his forces.
The Monteagle Letter
On the 26th October 1605 William Parker, Lord Monteagle received a letter from an anonymous source warning him not to attend parliament when it resumed in the next few days. The letter, with reference to the government stated
"My lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation, therefore I would advise you as you tender your life to devise some excuse to shift your attendance at this parliament, for God and man have concurred to punish the wickedness of this time, and think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country, where you may expect the event in safety, for though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow
this parliament and yet they shall not see who hurts them, this counsel is not to be condemned because it may do you good and can do you no harm, for the danger is past as soon as you have burnt the letter and I hope God will give you the grace to make good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you
Transcript of Letter to Lord Monteagle
26 October 1605
Monteagle left his home and passed this letter to the secretary of state Robert Cecil, who in searching the cellars under the Palace of Westminster found evidence to the truth of the letter in the form of thirty six barrels of gunpowder, and hiding among the barrels was one Guy Fawkes.
After ten years in the workplace I became a mother to three very beautiful daughters, I was fortunate enough to have been able to stay at home and spend my time with them as they grew into the young women they are now. I am still in the position of being able to be at home and pursue all the interests I have previously mentioned. We live in a beautiful Victorian spa town with wooded walks for the dog, lovely shops and a host of lovely people, what more could I ask for.
All works © Andrea Povey 2014. Please do not reproduce without the expressed written consent of Andrea Povey.