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Reformation in England and the Dissolution of the Monasteries

The Reformation in England was the process by which the English Church rejected the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and established a Litany and Doctrine of its own. The reformation in other 16th century European countries was doctrinal in principle and practice, but the English was not. It was precipitated by the monster king Henry VIII, second of the Tudor dynasty, after the Pope, his cardinals and archbishops and clergy had rejected his petition for divorce against his Queen, Katherine of Aragon. She had been unable to give him a male heir, and he wished to marry Anne Boleyn to try again.

The brute’s response was to use Parliament to pass acts separating the English Church from Rome. The English clergy were to be permitted to recognise Henry, rather than the Pope, as Supreme Head of the Church (1531). Three years later the Act of Supremacy ended the Pope’s authority in England. In the late 1530s all the monasteries in that country were to be dissolved and their properties and revenues were to be made forfeit to the Crown. (more…)

Stephen, the last Norman King of England

Stephen was born in or around 1097; anyway it is safe to assume his birth took place at the end of the 11th century. His mother was Adela, a daughter of William I, a.k.a. ‘The Conquerer’, and his father was Stephen, Count of Blois in France. Stephen had promised to accept a daughter of Henry I King of England as Queen of that country. She was the Empress Matilda, ‘Empress’ because she was the widow of Emperor Henry V of Germany (also known as Maud, which brings on the problems we have with confusing Maud with Maud!) (more…)

Scotland’s many rulers

Only two Queens have been monarchs of Scotland, and one of them actually reigned as the official Queen of Scotland for twenty-five years before being betrayed by the Scots themselves and was finally beheaded by the English Queen Elizabeth – though she blamed her chief minister for the sad death of Mary, Queen of Scots, who had already been Queen of France too.

The other Scottish queen was known as the Maid of Norway, christened Margaret, who ‘ruled’ for only four years. She was an infant queen, granddaughter of Alexander III, and the only child of his daughter Margaret who died at birth. The father was King Erik of Norway, which explains the child’s nickname. When Alexander died in 1286, Margaret was the only direct survivor of the Scottish line of kings. The politicians betrothed her in 1289 (when she was three) to the infant Prince Edward, first Prince of Wales and son of Edward I of England, known as ‘The Hammer of the Scots’ by historians, and as ‘Longshanks’ by Mel Gibson. Luckily for the little girl she died at sea on the way from Norway to Britain at seven years of age. I say luckily because nothing was happy about the life of the young Edward (q.v.), who as Edward II made a mess of everything, married a charming French lady whose nickname (well deserved) was ‘The She-Wolf of France’; Edward preferred the social company of male favourites, and ended his life in prison, possibly murdered in a peculiarly horrible manner (sodomy by red-hot poker) as suggested by his own wife and her lover, Mortimer. In the 13th century, thrones and the nobility inspired little else but jealousy, incest, robbery and assassination. (more…)

The witch trials at Salem, Massachusetts, 1692

Witch-hunting, of one type or another, has always been a popular spectator sport. Gypsies, Jews, witches, Catholics, Recusant Catholics, Protestants, homosexuals – everybody has been through it during the centuries. What happened to ‘village scolds’ (women who talked too much) in rural Britain for at least eight centuries was less harmful than burning of course, but being ducked repeatedly in a pond full of refuse and the odd dead animal if the poor scold was unlucky, cannot have been good for either morale or health. What occurred in rural Massachusetts was so awful Arthur Miller wrote an exceedingly successful stage play about it, called The Crucible – not a play for the faint-hearted. (more…)

By | 2014-04-01T13:35:06+00:00 October 2nd, 2013|A History of North America, English History, US History|0 Comments

The Ist Duke of Berwick, illegitimate and Jacobite

James Fitzjames was born in 1670. His father was James II of England and VII of Scotland, younger brother of Charles II. His mother was Mrs Arabella Churchill, one of the latter James’s numerous mistresses, the Stuart brothers being highly sexed and beyond doubt very attractive to women. (more…)


A bit of a dirty word since 1938 but it shouldn’t be. There is enough appeasement going on now over the disgusting situation in Syria to fill the Golden Bowl with appeasers eager to keep Assad Junior happy. It is all rather puzzling. With one Bush, America went with its cautious allies to war against Iraq because Saddam invaded Kuwait. Firepower won, of course, but Saddam’s government remained! Then Bush Jr. went to war with Iraq with equally cautious allies, beat him up, and permitted the locals to lynch Saddam in a particularly horrible way. Now in Syria the Assad boy kills hundreds of fellow citizens every day, even using poison gas to do it, and the world’s committees sit expensively around asking themselves what to do. (more…)

The Normans & the Norman Invasion of England

Normans were and are inhabitants of Normandy, a picturesque western coastal part of France. They are of mixed descendence, much of their blood being of Scandinavian or Viking origin, the rest Frankish (or French). The Vikings occupied most of Normandy in very early medieval times.

The first known important ruler was Rollo, who secured the area from a king of France. We must remember that France as such was much smaller than it is today. Inheritance laws, being much the same as England’s, were inadequate, since younger sons were left without territory in the testament. The reaction was a hunger for more territory, especially a collection of islands directly to the north called Britain, itself divided into many separate (and usually warring) kingdoms. The man to do the job was an illegitimate Duke of Normandy called William. (more…)

Poor Laws in Britain, and ‘Speenhamland’

A typical Victorian workhouse / ihbc.org.uk

A typical Victorian workhouse / ihbc.org.uk

The Poor Law provided during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I at the very end of the sixteenth century was still in force at the very beginning of the nineteenth century. Not much progress had been made during those three hundred years. A Poor Law is supposed to provide public relief, that is benefits paid out of the public purse to the destitute. Poor agricultural organisation and constant wars leaving thousands of out-of-work ex-soldiers ensured there were always destitute people.

In Britain parishes were made responsible for the support of the old, infirm and insane. Workhouses gave work to the workless, and were supposed to feed their otherwise helpless children. The cash necessary came from local rates and taxes, often supervised by unqualified overseers, who might succumb to temptation. (more…)

By | 2013-09-10T11:36:10+00:00 September 10th, 2013|British History, English History, Philosophy, Today|0 Comments

Medieval and pre-medieval Ireland

The English Pope Hadrian started the troubles in Ireland with his bull Laudabiliter / historytoday.com

The English Pope Hadrian started the troubles in Ireland with his bull Laudabiliter / historytoday.com

Before the 5th century, Ireland was virtually unknown, except as a wilderness island too far away and consequently a dangerous target for ambitious figures during the last years of Roman Europe. But it was a fine refuge for storm-bound refugees, and the Norsemen could build a secure base here from which to sally in search of a bloody encounter with the Saxons of England. Both Dublin and Limerick were founded by the Vikings. (more…)

Fortified Homes: the castle

An interior courtyard at Berkeley / built.org.uk

An interior courtyard at Berkeley / built.org.uk

“An Englishman’s home is his castle” as the old saying has it, and the phrase implies a multitude of meanings. Castles were defendable fortified buildings, increasingly strong as the dark ages moved noisily into the middle ages. They were invariably the homes of barons, those warlike ancestors of our modern aristocrats depended on by the King to help defend the realm and himself in time of civil or national wars. As wars were a constant menace castles were continually being built by the King and his nobles. (more…)

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