Manpower for sea power

Life at sea may not have been a particularly attractive prospect for a man in Georgian England, but it was always an option: The Royal Navy was constantly, chronically, in need of sailors. Its peacetime […]

Spencer Perceval’s assassination

All that is generally remembered about Spencer Perceval is that he was the only British prime minister ever to be assassinated. By all accounts he was a thoroughly decent, honourable and competent man, but he […]

The little Ice Age

From about 1550 the climate again grew colder with the intensification of what is known as “The Little Ice Age” which had begun in 1320s. In February 1565 Pieter Brueghel the Elder painted his famous […]

Key develoments in the British army in 17th century

March 31st, 2015

In the 1690s the English army’s matchlock musket (slow to load, clumsy to operate at the mercy of the elements) was replaced by a lighter weapon with a more robust firing system known as the flintlock. At the same time the old plug bayonet gave way to a socket version that fitted around the muzzle and enabled the gun to be fired. When allied to the new tactic of fighting three ranks deep and firing rolling volleys by platoons (18 to a battalion), these innovations made the English (later British) infantrymen the dominant factor on the battlefield.

Organised crime in Medieval England

March 2nd, 2015

A large sum of money – £4,000 in gold, to be precise – is due to be transferred from London to the king at Leicester, a distance of ninety miles. How many men do you think will be guarding it? Fifty? A hundred? Two hundred? You might be surprised to hear that this massive treasure is to be guarded by just five archers. Your thoughts on this might not differ greatly from those of many criminals in England at the time.

Scotland under the rule of Alexander III

February 13th, 2015

The eight-year-old Alexander III had been king for only a few days when two factions began to struggle for control of his small person. One was led by Alan Durward, the Justiciar of Scotland, supported by the Bruces and the Earl of Dunbar; the other was led by Walter de Comyn, Earl of Menteith and head of an ambitious and much ramified baronial family.

One year in Henry VIII’s life: 1536

January 30th, 2015

Katherine of Aragon died on 7th January, at Kimbolton House, possibly as a result of coronary thrombosis. She was buried quietly at Peterborough Abbey. During her final illness she remained forbidden from personal contact with her daughter Mary.On 24th January, Henry fell heavily in the tiltyard at Greenwich and lay unconscious for about two hours. The shock caused Anne to miscarry five days later, reportedly male foetus.

Matilda: A Queen in King’s World

January 14th, 2015

Power was inherently and inescapably male in the Middle Ages. The images displayed on the Great Seal of England encapsulated expectations of a medieval monarch: on one side the king sat in state to administer justice to his people, a sceptre in his hand; on the other he rode a towering warhorse with his sword unsheathed, ready to defend his kingdom. But a woman couldn’t sit as a judge or lead an army into battle. A woman, therefore, could not rule.

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