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Archive for March 21st, 2007

Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101.
Last week, we discussed Her Majesty’s Tower of London, and at one point I mentioned Yeoman Warders. That leads me to this episode’s topic. We will be discussing the two types of yeomen found within the group of bodyguards assigned to the monarch in Great Britain: the Yeomen of the Guard and the Yeomen Warders, often confused but with several key differences. Let’s get right to it.
The Yeomen of the Guard is the oldest military corps in existence in Britain, created in 1485 by Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth Field which ended the Wars of the Roses. They wear uniforms of red, white, and yellow, which are almost identical to those of Yeomen Warders with the exception of the cross belt worn from the left shoulder on uniforms of Yeomen of the Guard. They carry an undrawn sword and a halberd called a partisan. The Yeomen of the Guard number 73, all retired officers and sergeants in the British Services. Most Yeomen are appointed by the Lord Chamberlain, who recommends each member to the reigning monarch. The Captain of the Queen’s Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard, however, is always the Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Lords. All members of the Yeomen have at least 42 years of age but less than 55 upon appointment. They must have held the rank of sergeant or above in the Services, with at least 15 years’ service to Britain. I’ll quote Wikipedia on the dress of the Yeomen:
“The dress worn by the Yeomen of the Guard is in its most striking characteristics the same as it was in the Tudor period. It consists of a royal red tunic with purple facings and stripes and gold lace ornaments, together with a red cross-belt, red knee-breeches and red stockings, flat hat, and black shoes with red, white and blue rosettes… [t]he gold-embroidered emblems on the back and front of the coats consist of the Tudor Crown with the Lancastrian rose, the shamrock and the thistle, the motto “Dieu et mon Droit”, and the initials of the reigning sovereign.”
I’ll also add that “Dieu et mon Droit,” translates from French as “God and my right,” in reference to the divine right of the monarch to reign.
Yeoman of the Guard can be found at the Royal Maundy Service, during which the reigning monarch distributes specially coined “Maundy Money” to the poor on Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter). Since 1954, Maundy Money has been struck with the right-facing head of Queen Elizabeth II with the inscription “Elizabeth II Dei Gratia Regina F D,” or Elizabeth II By the Grace of God Queen and Defender of the Faith. On an interesting side note, Maundy coins dating back to 1822 remain legal tender in Britain. The Yeomen of the Guard also attend the State Opening of Parliament, before which they engage in the ceremonial search of the cellars of Parliament in remembrance of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The Yeomen are seen at the Epiphany Service at the Chapel Royal at St. James’ Palace, investitures and summer Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace, the installation of Knights of the Garter at Buckingham Palace, the investiture of the Prince of Wales, and the coronation, lying-in-state, and funeral of the Sovereign.
Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London are the other yeomen we will discuss. These guards have the official duties of keeping watch over the prisoners and crown jewels held within the Tower of London, but in practice they are tour guides for the Tower. However, this does not take away from the dignity of being a Yeoman Warder – each Warder is retired from the British Services with at least 22 years of service and in possession of the Long service and Good Conduct medals. Normally, the Warders wear “everyday” uniforms of dark blue with red trimmings, featuring the initials ER with the Roman numeral II between them, for Elizabeth II Regina. The Yeomen Warders are involved in one State ceremony, that being the coronation of the monarch. For Coronations, the Warders form a guard of honour within the annex of Westminster Abbey and are decked out in State dress uniforms. These are nearly identical to those of the Yeomen of the Guard, with the exception of the cross belt worn by the Guard.
Yeomen Warders are also the yeoman sometimes referred to as “Beefeaters.” There are several theories as to where this term came from; one claims the term arose from the fact that the Yeomen Warders were once fed with beef; an extension of that theory is that “beefeater” was used as a derogatory name to describe the Warders, who were well-fed in the sight of the impoverished; a third theory is that beefeater is a corruption of the French word “buffetier,” or keeper of the king’s food. However, the Warders themselves will tell you that the real beefeaters are the ravens in the Tower discussed in the immediately previous episode of British History 101; maintained by the Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster, the Tower’s avian guards are fed with raw meat or beef purchased personally by the Ravenmaster at Smithfield Meat Market.
Yeomen Warders also perform the Ceremony of the Keys each night in the Tower. If you’d like to attend this often heavily-booked event, the public is free to apply in writing at least two months in advance to:
The Ceremony of the Keys
HM Tower of London
London EC3N 4AB

That’s if for this episode of British History 101. This episode and the one treating the Tower of London before it can be found at BritishHistory101.com. I’d like to send a huge thank you to Mr. John Lu, who purchased the domain name BritishHistory101.com for me and has graciously forwarded it (several times) to my new address. If you do in fact visit the blog, make sure to add yourself to the Platial map on the sidebar and see where your fellow listeners are! Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. I can also be reached via Skype, under the name British History 101. Our music tonight is “Estampie Cosi Pensoso,” performed by Shira Kammen and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Thanks very much for listening, and we’ll talk again soon.

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Hello, this is Michael Anthony and you’re listening to British History 101. After an extremely long break, here I am again, and British History 101 is back on track. As many of you will recall, we left off with Henry VIII. I had originally planned to make Henry a 3 part series, but due to my dissatisfaction with my own work on the first episode and a general lack of an idea of how exactly to break that topic up, I’ve decided to move on to something entirely different. I assure you we will treat Henry in future episodes, but I admit my own planning wasn’t near enough to pull it off this time. With that said, let’s begin our episode on one of my favourite pieces of British heritage – the Tower of London.
Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress The Tower of London was built in 1070 and 1080 by William the Conqueror (who we discussed in the first three episodes of this podcast). It was a symbol of his power and might over the peoples he had subjugated in the decade prior. The image most commonly associated with the Tower of London is the White Tower, only one of 21 buildings within the existing complex today and the edifice originally built by William. The next century saw an enclosure of the White Tower with a curtain wall by King Richard the Lionheart, with the addition of a moat around the outside. Yet another defensive fixture was put in place by Edward I in the late 13th century, thus forming a double ring of defence around the Tower. This mighty fortification stood as a royal residence until the revolution lead by Oliver Cromwell, who had the old palaces on the site demolished.
At one point, the Tower featured quite a zoo, known as the Royal Menagerie. The zoo within the tower is often said to have been started in 1235, although some records indicate animals may have been kept there as much as 30 years before that. The so-called “official” beginning was due to the gift of three leopards given to Henry III by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II when Frederick married the king’s sister. The Royal Menagerie remained there for several centuries, and was opened to the public by the early 19th century. However, the London Zoo was built within a few decades, and all of the Royal Menagerie’s animals were removed from the Tower by 1835.
Since we’re on the subject of animals, I’d like to mention the ravens found within the Tower. History, whether provable or simply legend, says that at least six ravens have held residence within the Tower complex for centuries, and one tale claims that the entire United Kingdom shall fall should the ravens ever leave the Tower. This, of course, has been proven wrong, as the birds were all killed in the bombing of London by the Luftwaffe during World War II, and we all know how that war turned out. Eight ravens can now be found within the Tower’s walls, tended to by the Ravenmaster, a post given to one of the Yeoman Warders who guard the Tower. There are 5 male ravens named Gwylum, Thor, Bran, Gundulf (so named for the Tower’s architect, Bishop Gundulf of Rochester), and Baldrick, and 3 females called Hugine, Munin, and Branwen. On a personal note, I visited the Tower during my time in Britain in 2003, and on my tour a Yeoman Warder informed me that the ravens’ wings have been clipped – so no matter what, they can’t leave, and the kingdom shall never fall.
Aside from being home to lions, tigers, and ravens, the Tower has also been home to many people who’d rather not be there – prisoners. The Tower’s first mentionable prisoner was Bishop Flambard of Durham, sent there in 1100 for the crime of distortion. It is said that the good bishop later escaped from his imprisonment. Among the Tower’s depressingly impressive list of prisoners through history are several kings of Scotland, the future Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh, Guy Fawkes, and several wives of Henry VIII. The only American prisoner ever held within the tower was Henry Laurens, president of the Continental Congress in 1780. In more recent history, the Tower was host to its last execution during World War II of German spy Josef Jakobs. Rudolf Hess of Nazi infamy also found his way into the Tower.
Since 1303, the royal Crown Jewels have been kept at the Tower of London. They are stored now in the Tower’s Jewel House, under the protection of a unit of the Queen’s Guard. They were taken from the Tower during World War II (for obvious reasons). It is rumoured that during that time they were kept in either the Sun Life Insurance Company building in Montreal, Canada, the Round Tower of Windsor Castle, or Fort Knox in the state of Kentucky in the United States.
A fascinating event that has taken place nightly since the 1300’s is the Ceremony of the Keys, the process of securing the Tower of London. Shortly before 10 PM, the Chief Warder, dressed in Tudor fashion, meets the Escort of the Key and secures the main gates of the Tower with the Escort. They then proceed to the Bloody Tower archway, where the sentry challenges them and the escort answers with the following dialogue:
Sentry: Who comes there?
Chief Warder: The keys.
S: Whose keys?
CW: Queen Elizabeth’s keys.
S: Pass Queen Elizabeth's Keys. All's well.
The party then makes its way into the fortress, the guard presents arms, and the chief warder says the following with his hat raised, “God preserve Queen Elizabeth.” To which the sentry responds, “Amen.” It should be noted that it takes quite a bit to stop or interrupt the process – it carried on even during a bombing raid on London during World War II. Even though the guardroom was hit by incendiary bombs, the blown-over Escort and Chief Warder dusted themselves off and continued with the ceremony. The Officer of the Guard sent a letter to the reigning king, George VI, apologising for the Ceremony’s lateness. The King responded that no punishment was in order, as the Ceremony was interrupted by enemy action.
The Tower of London is both a centuries-old defensive bastion as well as a world-renowned symbol of British glory and power. It is an amazing sight to behold, and certainly a must-see for anyone travelling to the London area.
I’d like to say a few things before we wrap up for this episode. First of all – I’d really like to thank everyone who offered their input and feedback when I asked for it. It was wonderful to see such an outpouring of support, and I’ve really taken it to heart. As you can probably tell, I’ve decided to move forward with the usage of a script, as that was what 99 percent of those writing in requested. I must admit, I am a bit relieved – I was hoping the script would be the viable option to the podcasts’s listeners. Second of all – one listener wrote in and asked if British History 101 would always be free to listen to. That is something that I feel very strongly about and can personally guarantee – British History 101 will always be free, and nobody will ever be charged for the information contained within. It would be a travesty to charge a price for the knowledge I attempt to spread through this podcast, and I would never want to disadvantage someone wishing to learn about the land and the culture that I find myself so very fond of.
That’s if for this episode of British History 101. . If you’d like to check out a transcript of this and past episodes of my podcast, you can head over to http://www.britishhistory101.com for current and archived content. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. I can also be reached via Skype, under the name BritishHistory101 – for those of you who have tried to contact me that way in the past, I apologize for my unavailability – I am trying very earnestly now to be more active on that channel! Our music tonight is “Megan’s Daughter,” performed by Cheryl Ann Fulton and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. I very much appreciate everyone taking time out of their week to learn with me, and my best to you all. Thanks again, and we’ll meet again soon.

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Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. I apologize for not posting last week – I had originally made plans to, but circumstances here made it absolutely impossible for me to sit down and write out an entire episode. With that, here we are this week, embarking on our next adventure into the mists of Britain – the life, reign, and death of one of England’s greatest kings.
“In the wet summer of 1491, on the eve of St. Peter’s Day, 28 June, Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV, the sister of the ‘princes in the Tower,’ the wife and Queen of Henry VII, gave birth to her third child, who became King Henry VIII.”
This line, from Jasper Ridley’s Henry VIII, states simply what would come to change England forever. The birth of this monarch signified a new era in royal power – an era in which Henry would enjoy absolute and unquestioned authority. The son of Henry VII was baptised a few days later in the church of the Franciscan Observants at Greenwich (the location of the Palace of Placentia, where the child was born) by Richard Foxe, bishop of Exeter, in a baptismal font brought to Greenwich from Canterbury. Two years later, young Henry was appointed Constable of Dover Castle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in Kent and Sussex. In the following year, 1494, Henry was made Duke of York, and later Earl Marshal of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
In 1501, Henry found himself attending a wedding that would prove to be a foreshadowing of his own future. His father, Henry VII, had long desired an alliance with Spain before even his son Henry’s birth. As such, he had arranged a marriage between Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain’s daughter Catherine of Aragon and his son Arthur. The agreement to marry the two upon reaching an appropriate age was signed in 1488, three years before the future Duke of York’s birth. It was thus that at the age of 10 or 11 Henry was at his brother Arthur’s wedding at London’s St. Paul’s cathedral. This wedding, already important enough to the Tudor dynasty which Henry VII had founded in that it forged a type of alliance with Spain, would be the cause of a world-changing religious upheaval in later years. For now, however, Henry simply had a 16-year-old sister-in-law, the wife of his 15-year-old brother Arthur.
Arthur and his new Spanish wife headed off to Wales after the wedding in an attempt to quiet trouble in the area. Arthur‘s time there would be short lived – he died in 1502 of an illness that some of his contemporaries called consumption.
With Arthur’s death, his brother Henry took his title Duke of Cornwall, and was created Prince of Wales on 18 February 1503 – a week after his mother Elizabeth’s death on her 38th birthday. Plans were immediately put into place for Henry’s marriage to the new widow Catherine – Henry VII may have lost a son, but he still needed an alliance with Spain. However, there was one problem in this situation; that problem is called affinity. Historically, affinity was a concept in the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church (and, to some extent, still is today) defined by the New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia as “A relationship arising from the carnal intercourse of a man and a woman, sufficient for the generation of children, whereby the man becomes related to the woman's blood-relatives and the woman to the man's. If this intercourse is between husband and wife, this relationship extends to the fourth degree of consanguinity, and the degree of affinity coincides with that of blood relationship.” If Arthur consummated his marriage to Catherine, a dispensation from the pope would be necessary to allow Henry to marry his brother’s widow. The interesting thing here is that Catherine vehemently denied that she ever committed the carnal act with Arthur – according to her, the marriage was never consummated. Even if affinity wasn’t an issue, there was still the lesser problem of “public honesty.”
On 23 June 1503, the agreement between Henry VII and Ferdinand and Isabella, rulers of Spain, that his son the Prince of Wales was to marry their daughter, Catherine of Aragon, was signed. Ferdinand and Isabella were to pay a sum of 100,000 scudos, in addition to the 100,000 already paid for the marriage to Arthur, as Catherine’s dowry. The agreement further assumed that Arthur and Catherine’s marriage had been consummated, and therefore asked the pope for a dispensation. From Ridley’s book, we read “When Ferdinand heard about this, he was surprised, for he said it was well-known in England that the marriage had not been consummated and that Catherine was still a virgin. But he did not alter the wording of the marriage treaty, and ordered that his ambassador in Rome to ask the pope for a dispensation on the assumption that the marriage had been consummated.” The newly elected Pope Julius II granted the dispensation on 26 December 1503 and sent the papal bull containing his dispensation the following October. Henry, Prince of Wales, was now free to marry Catherine of Aragon.
Now is where the story gets really interesting. I know that I for one have a bit of trouble following genealogies, and I thought I’d warn you because that’s exactly what we’re about to get into. Keep in mind the transcript of this is on my blog so you can go back and check the details later; for now, “go with the flow,” as it were. I’ve already borrowed quite a bit from Ripley’s book on Henry; I believe he puts the situation best, and so he writes, “But there was a hitch in the negotiations for Henry’s marriage to Catherine. In November 1504 Queen Isabella died. The throne of Castile passed to the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, Joanna, who was on the verge of becoming insane. Ferdinand continued to act as ruler of Castile as well as of Aragon as Regent for his mad daughter; but her husband, Duke Philip of Habsburg, who was the son of the Emperor Maximilian and his regent in the Netherlands, claimed the throne of Castile for him and her. The quarrel between Philip and Ferdinand made Henry VII reluctant to marry his son to Ferdinand’s daughter; for he began to consider the possibility of making an alliance with Maximilian and the Habsburgs by marrying his daughter Mary to the infant son of Philip and Joanna, Prince Charles of Castile, who later became the Emperor Charles V. The trade between England and the Netherlands made any ruler of Burgundy a more desirable ally than the King of Aragon.”
Basically, all this mess boils down to this: Henry VII began to rethink the wisdom of marrying his son off to Catherine – perhaps a Tudor alliance with Maximilian would be more beneficial. The King of England thus orchestrated a technical move in an attempt to get himself out of the contract uniting his son and Catherine – the Prince of Wales went before the Bishop of Winchester and the King’s Council, declaring that the marriage contract had been made while he was underage. Making his protest on the day before his 14th birthday, he refused to ratify the contract upon reaching the appropriate age and therefore the contract was worthless.
January of 1506 saw Philip and his wife Joanna sail for Spain from the Netherlands with 3,000 German mercenaries. They were blown ashore by storms onto the English coast, and Philip soon found himself being entertained by King Henry, with whom he made a treaty of alliance. This would later anger Ferdinand of Spain so much that he would decide to stop even trying to marry his daughter to Prince Henry; however, when he requested that the King of England send his daughter back, Henry refused.
The King of England’s later years were riddled with health scares. He became almost fatally ill in the spring of 1507, recovering only to fall ill again in February 1508. He seemed to rally but again lost his health in July of the same year. The final blow would be dealt on 24 March 1509, when Henry VII collapsed. He made his will on 31 March; on 20 April, the Prince of Wales rushed to his dying father’s bedside. England’s king would live only for another 27 hours, during which time his son would later claim his father had asked him to go ahead and marry Catherine of Aragon. It was in such a condition that Henry VII died on 21 April 1509. The crown immediately passed to his son, the Prince of Wales, who became King Henry VIII, King of England, King of France, and Lord of Ireland.
This is where we’ll stop for this week. I’m treating Henry VIII in the same style as the Battle of Hastings; that is, there’s so much material that it’d be much easier to digest if we split it up into several parts. Anyone with a bit of familiarity with British history knows that Henry VIII caused quite the turmoil between his many wives, and therefore we will start on that band of the king’s women next week.
I have a huge thank you to send out with this episode. Last Monday, I received an email from Mr. John Lu. John has been a webmaster for several different employers, and after hearing about my URL woes with the British History 101 blog, he has VERY graciously bought the domain name BritishHistory101.com and forwarded it to the blog! From here on out, if you would like to check out the transcripts for each episode, you need only type in http://www.britishhistory101.com, and it will direct you straight to my blog. Thank you so much, John – I was very dissatisfied with the way I had to address the blog, and this solves many problems for me. Again, thank you!
That’s it for this week. If you’d like to check out a transcript of this and past episodes of my podcast, I am proud to say you can now head over to britishhistory101.com for current and archived content. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is “Cominciamento di Gloia,” performed by Shira Kammen and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. I very much appreciate everyone taking time out of their week to learn with me, and my best to you all. Thanks again, and we’ll meet again soon.

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Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. This evening, we continue in the vein of last week’s episode of St. Thomas Becket, and delve into the author of The Ecclesiastical History of the English People – Venerable Bede, Saint, Doctor of the Church, and, to many, the father of English history. There are some Latin terms in here, and I will be applying my elementary language skills to pronounce them. Please bear with me if I make a few mistakes.
Bede was born in approximately 673 at Tyne in County Durham, England. At the age of seven, he was taken to the monastery at the abbey of Saints Peter and Paul at Wearmouth. He was soon moved to become one of the first members of the monastic community at Jarrow. This was only 5 or 6 miles from Wearmouth, and the two were meant to function under one abbot – for this reason, many sources cite Bede as entering the monastic life at Wearmouth-Jarrow. He was ordained a deacon at the age of 19 and became a priest at age 30. He never left this area, and yet he was one of the most learned men of the time throughout all Europe.
Very little of Bede’s actual life and the events therein are known – the best source of such knowledge is an addition to his Ecclesiastical History that he wrote after finishing the book when he was 59. The main concern of Bede is his writings – and he was well-written. He wrote over a wide range of topics, from natural history and science to Biblical commentary. His most famous work is that which has already been mentioned several times here – The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, or Historia Ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum as Bede originally titled it in Latin. It covers events from the arrival of Julius Caesar in 55-54 BC to the arrival of Augustine, the Roman missionary, in 597. It originally spanned over five different books and took up about 400 pages. Bede’s reasons for making such a record are seen clearly in his own words: “For if history records good things of good men, the thoughtful hearer is encouraged to imitate what is good; or if it records evil of wicked men, the good, religious reader or listener is encouraged to avoid all that is sinful and perverse, and to follow what he knows to be good and pleasing to God.” Historia Ecclesiastica has been called the finest historical work in the early Middle Ages, and rightfully so. Also, aside from the history it provides, Bede’s writing contributed greatly to dating the time from the birth of Christ – he commonly used the terms anno ab incarnatione Domini (in the year from the incarnation of the Lord).
Aside from Historia, Bede put pen to paper and created texts offering commentary on many books of the Bible – he lists these works at the end of Historia and they dominate the list of his writings. He also wrote a history of the abbots of Wearmouth-Jarrow. He lists several other books in the end pages of Historia, and in his own words they are:
“A martyrology of the festivals of the holy martyrs, in which I have diligently tried to note down all that I could find about them, not only on what day, but also by what sort of combat and under what judge they overcame the world…A book of hymns in various metres and rhythms…A book of epigrams in heroic and elegiac metre…Two books, one on the nature of things and the other on chronology: also a longer book on chronology…A book about orthography arranged according to the order of the alphabet…A book on the art of metre, and to this added another small book on the figures of speech or tropes, that is, concerning the figures and modes of speech with which the holy Scriptures are adorned.”
It is quite easy to see that Bede was well-learned and well-written.
Bede is thought to have been writing even upon his deathbed. This account of his last days, written by Cuthbert (one of Bede’s contemporaries), describes it quite beautifully. As with the writing we encountered with St. Thomas, this excerpt is lengthy, but the writing is powerful and I think it most definitely bears listening to:
“On Tuesday before the Ascension he began to be much worse in his breathing, and a small swelling appeared in his feet; but he passed all that day pleasantly, and dictated in school, saying now and then, 'Go on quickly; I know not how long I shall hold out, and whether my Maker will soon take me away.' To us he seemed very well to know the time of his departure. He spent the night awake in thanksgivings. On Wednesday morning he ordered us to write speedily what he had begun. After this, we made the procession according to the custom of that day, walking with the relics of the saints till the third hour, (or nine o'clock in the morning;) then one of us said to him: 'Most dear master, there is still one chapter wanting. Do you think it troublesome to be asked any more questions?' He answered: 'It is no trouble. Take your pen and write fast.' He did so. But at the ninth hour (three in the afternoon) he said to me: 'Run quickly; and bring all the priests of the monastery to me.' When they came, he distributed to them some pepper-corns, little cloths or handkerchiefs, and incense which he had in a little box, entreating every one that they would carefully celebrate masses and say prayers for him; which they readily promised to do. They all wept at his telling them, they should no more see his face in this world; but rejoiced to hear him say: 'It is now time for me to return to him who made me, and gave me a being when I was nothing. I have lived a long time; my merciful Judge most graciously foresaw and ordered the course of my life for me. The time of my dissolution draws near. I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ. Yes; my soul desires to see Christ my king in his beauty.' Many other things he spoke to our edification, and spent the rest of the day in joy till the evening. The above-mentioned young scholar, whose name was Wilberth, said to him: 'Dear master, there is still one sentence that is not written.' He answered, 'Write quickly.' The young man said: 'It is now done.' He replied: 'You have well said; it is at an end: all is finished. Hold my head, that I may have the pleasure to sit, looking towards my little oratory where I used to pray; that while I am sitting I may call upon my heavenly Father, and on the pavement of his little place sing, Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.' Thus he prayed on the floor, and when he had named the Holy Ghost, he breathed out his soul. All declared that they had never seen any one die with such great devotion and tranquillity…”
Certainly, Bede went forth from this world according to the wishes he wrote at the very end of Historia: “And I pray thee, merciful Jesus, that as Thou hast graciously granted me sweet draughts from the Word which tells of Thee, so wilt Thou, of Thy goodness, grant that I may come at length to Thee, the fount of all wisdom, and stand before Thy face forever.” Bede has most certainly gotten his wish, and his remains now lie at Durham Cathedral.
One legend as to how Bede acquired the title Venerable is that a monk sat down to write the epitaph for Bede’s tomb and came out with “Hac sunt in fossa Bedae . . . . ossa,” or “Here are in this tomb Bede’s bones.” He wanted to add another word to complete the line, but could not think of one and went to bed to sleep on it. When he awoke the next morning, the paper he was writing on said, “Hac sunt in fossa
Bedae Venerabilis ossa,” or “Here are in this tomb Bede the Venerable's bones.” According to the fable, angels had written the extra word in during the night. Most likely, the term actually entered usage in reference to Bede at the Council of Aachen in 835. Over a thousand years later in 1859, English bishops petitioned the Vatican to make Bede a Doctor of the Church. This request wasn’t granted until 1899, when Pope Leo XIII declared that the Feast of Venerable Bede be celebrated on 27 May (the feast has since been moved to the 25th May) and he was officially made a Doctor of the Roman Church. This title is conferred on those who exhibit both brilliant witness of faith and skilful articulation and defence of Catholic doctrine. Bede is one of 33 Doctors of the Church and the only English Doctor. Venerable Bede is also the only Englishman in the Paradiso part of Dante’s Commedia Divina.
Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica is valued as the best source of knowledge concerning early English history, and has shed light on incredible amounts of information that undoubtedly would have gone unknown if not for this monk from Wearmouth-Jarrow. I know that I as an amateur historian am personally indebted to Bede and grateful for his life’s work.
That’s the end of this week’s episode. I am reluctantly announcing in advance that I am suspending production of British History 101 next week in light of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States. It is a time for me to see family and friends that I rarely get to spend time with, and with as much work as I am required to do over the break anyway, I want to maximize that time with them. I hope you will forgive me for this hiatus, and I assure you I will be back the following week.
A transcript of this and past episodes of my podcast can be found at britishhistory101.com. Send questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. If I am at my computer, I can also be reached via Skype by the name britishhistory101, all in lowercase letters. Our music tonight is “Rantin’ Rovin’ Robin,” performed by O Fickle Fortune and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. I very much appreciate everyone taking time out of their week to learn with me, and my best to you all. If you are in the United States, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and for those of you outside of my country I convey my warmest regards. Thanks again, and we’ll meet again soon.

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St. Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket was born in 1118, most likely on 21 December, to a middle class Norman family in London. Although he was from the middle class, Thomas was able to associate with those in the upper strata of society, spending much time with his father Gilbert’s rich friend Richer de L’aigle from whom he learned to hunt, ride, and behave as a gentleman – in other words, Thomas was well educated in social matters. At the age of 10, Thomas was sent to the Merton Abbey, where he learned to read. He completed his early education at the University of Paris. After university, Thomas entered into secretarial work for Richer de L’aigle, which it is probably safe to assume was due to his earlier connections with de L’aigle. Becket also worked for Osbert Huitdeniers, who was King Stephen’s Justiciar, a term which we would associate with prime minister in modern times. Around 1141, Becket earned the attention of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, served as a clerk to the archbishop, and became Theobald’s most trusted man. Robert of Clicklade gives us a pretty good idea of Thomas at that point in his life:
“To look upon he was slim of growth and pale of hue, with dark hair, a long nose, and a straightly featured face. Blithe of countenance was he, winning and loveable in his conversation, frank of speech in his discourses, but slightly stuttering in his talk, so keen of discernment and understanding that he could always make difficult questions plain after a wise manner.”
Theobald was very impressed with Becket, and trusted him with important work. He sent Thomas off to Bologna and Auxerre for a year to study civil and canon law. After his time on the Continent, Theobald ordained Becket a deacon in 1154 and then appointed him archdeacon of Canterbury.
Right about this time, King Stephen died, and Henry II took the throne. On Theobald’s advice, Henry appointed Thomas to be his chancellor. Thus, at the age of only 36 or 37, Thomas Becket became one of the most powerful subjects of King Henry II, falling behind only the justiciar of London. Henry was charmed by Thomas, and the two immediately became great friends, even though Thomas was 12 years older than Henry. Many history texts will cite the opinion of the time that the two men “had but one heart and one mind.” Theobald, having played a large part in Thomas’ rise to power, expected Becket to support the clerical faction whenever disputes arose between the Church and the sovereign, but more often that not Thomas sided with Henry – there is no doubt that he was fiercely loyal to his king. The two were extremely close, and Thomas was most assuredly one of, if not the, most trusted advisor of Henry. Becket is credited with reorganizing the imposition of a scuttage – a fee that could be paid in lieu of military service. He even accompanied Henry on a military expedition to Toulouse in 1159 – and Thomas certainly wasn’t known to shrink from battle.
It should be pointed out that Thomas shared another bond with King Henry – both lived in extravagance, and Thomas loved to show off his station in life. When traveling to France in 1158, Becket displayed such magnificence that it is thought the French said “”If this be only the chancellor what must be the glory of the king himself?”
Worldly though his behavior seemed to be, hardly any man dared to doubt Thomas’ piety – privately, it would seem he was devoted to God and Church, and worked very hard to maintain the Church’s power in England. Although he usually agreed with Henry, Thomas was not afraid to stand up and speak for the benefit of the Church.
Thomas saw the conflict this would cause when, in 1161, Archbishop Theobald died, and the Archbishopric of Canterbury was open. Over the course of the next year, Henry saw this as a way to strengthen his own power and position when conflict would arise with the Church – if he could install Thomas as Archbishop, he would have his own man inside the Church, and therefore could push his own reforms against the Church more easily – after all, Henry saw himself as supreme master of the land, and did not want to yield any authority to the Roman Church.. Dedicated as Thomas was to the Church, he felt obligated to tell Henry “I know your plans for the Church…you will assert claims which I, if I were archbishop, must needs oppose.” Henry pressed forward anyway and convinced Thomas to take the position. Thomas Becket was ordained a priest and consecrated bishop on 3 June 1162.
Becket’s consecration marked the end of his worldly life – he immediately changed his ways, and his private piety was brought to the public forefront. In modern terms, it could be said that he performed a complete 180 degree turnaround. He rid himself of his previously lavish lifestyle (along with his chancellorship) and became devoted to the interests of the Church – which, of course, conflicted with why Henry had made him Archbishop of Canterbury in the first place. Sir Winston Churchill, in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, illustrates this change by saying “But whereas hitherto as a courtier and a prince he had rivaled all in magnificence and pomp, taking his part in the vivid pageant of the times, he now sought by extreme austerities to gather around himself the fame and honour of a saint. Becket pursued the same methods and ambitions in the ecclesiastical as previously he had done in the political sphere; and in both he excelled. He now championed the Church against the Crown in every aspect of their innumerable interleaving functions. He clothed this aggressive process with those universal ideas of the Catholic Church and the Papal authority which far transcended the bounds of our Island…”
One of the biggest issues causing distress between king and bishop was that of “criminous clerks.” At the time, men in holy orders who were accused of committing crimes would be charged in ecclesiastical, rather than secular, courts. Seeing people wriggle out from under his control, Henry strongly opposed this protection of the Church, and at the Council of Westminster in 1163 he demanded that those men tried and convicted in ecclesiastical courts also be punished by civil courts. The next year, Henry codified this demand, among other complaints against Church authority, in the Constitutions of Clarendon. Becket gave his oral assent but refused to sign the Constitutions. However, when Pope Alexander III voiced his opposition to the Constitutions, Becket openly refuted them. He was summoned to the Council of Northampton and accused of misappropriating funds when he was chancellor. Becket sealed his position against the king by refuting the council’s jurisdiction over himself, and the resulting hostilities led to Thomas’ flight to and exile in France. Although the subject of criminous clerks is only one among several major injuries Thomas saw against the Church, it was quite clear that Becket and Henry would never agree on relations between Church and State, and the Archbishop fled the country for fear of what would happen to him after his latest and loudest opposition to Henry’s power. Thomas left from Sandwich on 2 November and headed for France, where he was cordially welcomed by Louis VII. Three weeks after he left England, the Archbishop of Canterbury presented himself to the pope at Sens. The pope welcomed him warmly, but refused to accept his resignation from the Archbishopric of Canterbury. At the time, Frederick Barbarossa had placed an antipope on the papal throne in Rome, and Alexander feared that supporting Thomas too strongly would cause Henry to unite against him with Frederick.
Negotiations continued between the pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the King of England for four more years, never with much change being made. Finally, Henry came to France and made a tenuous peace with Thomas, under threat of a papal interdict – under which Mass could not be celebrated, sacraments could not be given unless absolutely necessary, and Christian burials would be forbidden. The threat of an interdict was issued after Henry had his son crowned by the Archbishop of York – something that, at the time, was an enormous insult to Thomas. It had long been the Archbishop of Canterbury’s prerogative to perform the crowning, and having York do it was the ultimate slap in the face to Thomas.
The crowning of Henry’s son had taken place in June of 1170. In December of that year, Thomas Becket returned to England, and promptly excommunicated the bishops who had taken part in the coronation. This enraged Henry, and his response has several different variations – I have heard at least five or six myself, but we’ll turn again to Winston Churchill for his take on Henry’s statement. Flying into a fit of rage, he purportedly yelled “What a pack of fools and cowards I have nourished in my house that not one of them will avenge me of this turbulent priest!” Henry probably said this only out of anger and didn’t actually mean much by it, but four knights who heard what Henry had said – Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Moreville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton – took this as their call to action, and mounted their horses for Canterbury. When they arrived at the cathedral, they tracked down the archbishop and demanded the absolution of the excommunicated bishops. When Thomas refused, the knights left, only to return a short time later with a gang of armed men. They demanded “Where is the traitor?” Thomas replied “Here I am, no traitor, but archbishop and priest of God.” The men tried to drag Henry from the Church to no avail, and so they murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury in his cathedral, supposedly in front of the main altar, before the eyes of astonished monks. The monk who supposedly carried the Archbishop’s cross, Edward Grim, was also wounded in the attack, and he gave one of the most detailed contemporary accounts of the assassination. Here’s an excerpt; it’s a bit long but I assure you it is an excellent account of the event:
“With rapid motion they laid sacrilegious hands on him, handling and dragging him roughly outside of the walls of the church so that there they would slay him or carry him from there as a prisoner, as they later confessed. But when it was not possible to easily move him from the column, he bravely pushed one [of the knights] who was pursuing and drawing near to him; he called him a panderer saying, “Don’t touch me, Rainaldus, you who owes me faith and obedience, you who foolishly follow your accomplices.” On account of the rebuff the knight was suddenly set on fire with a terrible rage and, wielding a sword against the sacred crown said, “I don’t owe faith or obedience to you that is in opposition to the fealty I owe my lord king.” The invincible martyr – seeing that the hour which would bring the end to his miserable mortal life was at hand and already promised by God to be the next to receive the crown of immortality – with his neck bent as if he were in prayer and with his joined hands elevated above – commended himself and the cause of the Church to God, St. Mary, and the blessed martyr St. Denis. He had barely finished speaking when the impious knight, fearing that [Thomas] would be saved by the people and escape alive, suddenly set upon him and, shaving off the summit of his crown which the sacred chrism consecrated to God, he wounded the sacrificial lamb of God in the head; [my] lower arm was cut by the same blow. Indeed [I] stood firmly with the holy archbishop, holding him in his arms – while all the clerics and monks fled – until the one he had raised in opposition to the blow was severed…Then, with another blow received on the head, he remained firm. But with the third the stricken martyr bent his knees and elbows, offering himself as a living sacrifice, saying in a low voice, “For the name of Jesus and the protection of the church I am ready to embrace death.” But the third knight inflicted a grave wound on the fallen one; with this blow he shattered the sword on the stone and his crown, which was large, separated from his head so that the blood turned white from the brain yet no less did the brain turn red from the blood; it purpled the appearance of the church with the colors of the lily and the rose, the colors of the Virgin and Mother and the life and death of the confessor and martyr. The fourth knight drove away those who were gathering so that the others could finish the murder more freely and boldly. The fifth – not a knight but a cleric who entered with the knights – so that a fifth blow might not be spared him who had imitated Christ in other things, placed his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr and (it is horrible to say) scattered the brains with the blood across the floor, exclaiming to the rest, ‘We can leave this place, knights, he will not get up again.’ But during all these incredible things the martyr displayed the virtue of perseverance. Neither his hand nor clothes indicated that he had opposed a murderer – as is often the case in human weakness; nor when stricken did he utter a word, nor did he let out a cry or a sigh, or a sign signaling any kind of pain; instead he held still the head that he had bent toward the unsheathed swords.”
Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was dead, murdered by agents of the King of England.
Canterbury cathedral immediately became a place of pilgrimage, and people began praying to him and vying just to touch pieces of his clothing or bits of his bones in the hope of being healed of various ailments. Pope Alexander canonized Thomas in 1173, and the former Archbishop of Canterbury became St. Thomas of Canterbury. The following year, King Henry did public penance, walking to Canterbury barefoot and allowing the monks there to whip him as he prayed at the site of the saint’s murder. The shrine of Canterbury remained a place of prayer and veneration until Henry VIII brought it down in 1538. St. Thomas Becket’s feast day is 29 December, the day he was murdered in 1170.
Some have placed an “a” between the names Thomas and Becket, turning his name into Thomas à Becket, probably in an attempt to compare the archbishop with Thomas à Kempis, the theologian who wrote “Imitation of Christ”. Although it is a nice touch, it isn’t exactly correct, and the more accepted form of the name is simply Thomas Becket.
In an interesting side note, readers of BBC Magazine voted Thomas Becket the second worst Briton in a thousand years, ranking behind Jack the Ripper and before King John (of Magna Carta fame). Those readers apparently saw Becket’s piety as phony, and thought of him as a greedy hypocrite. Regardless of how you feel about the saint, it is unquestionable that he stuck to his principles and carried out the duties of his office with gusto – he performed extremely well as Henry’s chancellor, and the ambition seen in his secular office transferred exactly into his office as Archbishop. He refused to compromise in the face of opposition and died for what he believed in.

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Correction

Take a listen and I'll fix the facts for James I !

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Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. In this week’s episode, we’ll take a look at an upcoming date that is traditionally a day of celebration in England – 5 November, known throughout the country as Guy Fawkes’ Day.
In 1605, King James I of England (IV of Scotland) had recently arrived from Scotland. His predecessor, Elizabeth I, had made the English Church’s break from Rome even more concrete than her father Henry after his power struggle with the pope in the Vatican, but many Catholics still remained in the country and obviously wanted to continue worshipping as they had for centuries. It became clear that James wasn’t going to offer any more toleration for Catholicism than his mother, and Roman Catholics throughout the land became understandably upset at this.
Enter the Gunpowder Plot. The Gunpowder plot refers to the conspiracy and failed attempt to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament on the State Opening of Parliament in 1605, when the King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons would all be together. The primary minds behind the Plot were Robert Catesby, Thomas Winter, John Wright, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, and (later) Robert Keyes, and these men began to formulate their assassination in 1604. The band intended to decapitate the English government in one fell swoop, destroying King and Parliament both at once. Furthermore, the conspirators wanted to capture the king’s children, Prince Charles and Princess Elizabeth, so that after the attack they could install one as monarch and force them to allow Catholics the rights they felt they deserved.
The Plot originally began by renting a house attached to Westminster below the Prince’s Chamber. A tunnel would then be dug underground to the massive foundations of the House of Lords, through which kegs of gunpowder that were in storage at Lambeth across the Thames from Westminster would be smuggled in. However, a better opportunity soon cropped up. A chamber under the House of Lords was being rented out for storage, and when the tenant left his lease on 25 March 1605, Thomas Percy took it up and found himself in possession of the perfect hiding spot for all the gunpowder. The tunnel plan was abandoned. Throughout the summer and fall of 1605, details were worked out, and the date for the act was set for November 5. Guy Fawkes, who would operate under the alias John Johnson, servant of Thomas Percy, was designated the man to light the slow fuses that would detonate the barrels of explosive powder. He was to set sail for the European Continent as soon as he had completed his task.
With the complexity of the Plot, it was impossible to keep the secret among just those few men listed earlier, and the network grew considerably. Some of the less prominent conspirators began to get worried about members of Parliament who were Catholic themselves would die should the Plot go through to completion at the State Opening. Lord Monteagle, Member of the House of Lords and a known Catholic, received a letter bearing the following text on Saturday, 26 October:
My lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care for your preservation. Therefore I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift of your attendance of this Parliament, for God and man hath 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, the Parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them.. This counsel is not to be contemned, 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.
Obviously, the receipt of such a letter (which was shown to Lord Cecil, England’s Secretary of State) was cause for much concern, and so on 4 November Lord Monteagle and Lord Suffolk, the Lord Chamberlain, conducted a search of the cellars below the Lords Chamber and spotted Fawkes, along with coal and wood that Thomas Percy had supplied in order to hide the barrels of gunpowder. At midnight, Sir Thomas Knyvett, one of the Court’s retainers and Justice for Westminster made a more thorough search with a group of men and found Fawkes again. This time, he posed as a Mr. John Johnson, servant of Thomas Percy. The men found Fawkes to be in possession of a watch, slow matches, and touchpaper – all essential elements to setting off the massive explosion that would have leveled Westminster. While being arrested, Fawkes offered no denial of his intentions and made it clear he was there to blow up the King and Parliament. He was taken to the King’s bedchamber and presented to King James, where he maintained his defiant attitude, saying that the King had been excommunicated and that dangerous diseases required desperate remedies. Guy Fawkes soon found himself on the way to the Tower of London, where torture awaited him.
The Clerk of the House, Ralph Ewens, made a marginal note of the event as part of the day’s business, saying, “This last night, the Upper House of Parliament was searched by Sir Thomas Knyvett, and one Johnson, servant to Mr. Thomas Percy, was there apprehended, who had placed 36 barrels of gunpowder in the vault under the House with a purpose to blow [up] it and the whole company when they should here assemble.” King James made an emotional speech at the State Opening, saying that it would have been an honor to die among his own Commons (as the House of Commons would have been in the Chamber for the opening ceremony). He claimed that kings were subject to perils that mere mortals would never face, and that only his own cleverness had saved them all from death. James was surely flabbergasted when Parliament responded to his speech by more or less ignoring his speech and turning to the business of the day, specifically to discuss one Member of Parliament’s petition to be relived of his duties due to an attack of gout. James’ relationship with his Parliament was clearly shaky at best, but those details will be saved for a future episode. 5 November was a day of great rejoicing in London, and the following Sunday (10 November) was set as a day of Thanksgiving.
Most of Fawkes’ co-conspirators were caught within a week, tortured, and killed (if they weren’t shot on sight when they were found). All were set to be hanged, drawn, and quartered – they would be hung by their necks until almost dead (hanged), and then they would be disemboweled (drawn). Their genitalia would be cut off and burned before their eyes, along with the entrails recently removed from their bodies. They would then be cut into pieces (quartered). The chunks of their bodies would then be posted at prominent and visible locations around the city. The men were given a trial, which took place on 27 January 1606 in Westminster Hall. All but 1 pleaded not guilty. The executions were set for four days later. The lesser conspirators were to be executed at St. Paul’s Churchyard, while the so-called “leaders” of the Plot were to be killed at Old Palace Yard at Westminster, in front of the place they had planned to destroy. Although he had already been subjected to excruciating pain in order to extract a confession, Guy Fawkes managed to escape further suffering on his execution day. Immediately prior to being hanged until almost dead, Fawkes simply jumped off the scaffold – doing so would guarantee enough force on the noose that his neck would snap as soon as the rope fell as far as its length allowed. Fawkes died instantly. One of his co-conspirators, Robert Keyes, tried to same tactic, but to no avail – when he jumped, the rope simply broke, and he went straight to the drawing portion of execution.
A few months later, in May 1606, another person was executed in connection to the Gunpowder Plot – Father Henry Garnett, a Jesuit priest who acted as confessor to the conspirators. Father Garnett claimed that what he was told during the Sacrament of Reconciliation was protected by the Seal of the Confessional, and that he had tried to talk the men out of the act. He was killed anyway for protecting treasonous information.
5 November immediately became a national day of commemoration. An Act of Parliament was passed to make 5 November a day of thanksgiving for the “joyful day of deliverance”, and the Act remained in effect until 1859. People began to celebrate the event with bonfires, and soon the fiery festivities became tradition. Children began making effigies of Guy Fawkes, stuffing old clothes with newspapers or any other appropriate filling, and burning them – in essence, “burning the Guy.” In modern times, some places such as Lewes and Battle in Sussex hold large processions and public bonfires to celebrate. Bonfires in back gardens and fireworks can be found in most towns on the night of 5 November, and children show off their homemade “guys” for weeks before the event, raising money to buy fireworks. Many children have committed to memory a chant to remember why they are celebrating:
Remember, remember, the fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
We see no reason
Why Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip hoorah!

Every year, the Yeoman of the Guard search the Houses of Parliament before the State Opening, a traditional ritual performed not for security’s sake but to commemorate the Gunpowder Plot. It would be difficult for the Yeoman to find anyone in the original cellar, anyway – it was damaged by fire in 1834 and destroyed when the Palace of Westminster was rebuilt in the 19th century.
To this day, there is confusion as to the actual origins of the Plot. Most believe that it was an earnest attempt by the conspirators to overthrow the English government and install one friendly to Catholics. However, some think that Secretary of State Lord Cecil set the plot into motion, making the conspirators believe they were working of their own accord. The Secretary could then use the Plot to discredit Catholics within the country. Some even go so far as to think that Guy Fawkes was one of Cecil’s men, paid to plan the Plot but eventually taking the fall for Cecil. This leads to further mystery as the letter written to Lord Monteagle warning him away from the Opening of Parliament – was it actually written by one of the conspirators, or did Cecil send it to him to expose the alleged Plot? We may, and most likely will, not ever know. What we can be certain of is that 5 November will continue to be celebrated for many years to come.
A bit before James’ time, the Tudor family ruled Britain, and my fellow podcaster and British history enthusiast Lara Eakins has the perfect resource for all things Tudor:
Thanks, Lara. That’s it for this episode. Check out my blog at britishhistory101.com for a transcript of this and past episodes. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. I’m borrowing a page from Matt’s Today in History’s playbook and making myself available, should I happen to be at my computer, via Skype by the name britishhistory101, all in lowercase letters. Our music tonight is “Sir Watkins’ Delight,” performed by Cheryl Ann Fulton and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until next week, my best to you all, and thanks again for learning with me. Now that we’re done here, go out and make some history!

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Lady Godiva

Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. After an admittedly ridiculously long hiatus, British History 101 is back and in full action. Tonight, we explore one of Britain’s most well-known folktales and a story that has given rise to a term applied today for a nosy man of low character – Peeping Tom.
You may recall from British History 101’s pilot series on the Battle of Hastings one Godwin, Earl of Wessex. One of his fellow lords was Leofric, Earl of Mercia in approximately central England. Leofric was known for his generosity to religious houses, and is credited with founding the Benedictine monastery at Coventry. It is thought by some that Leofric’s wife, Godgifu (meaning “God’s gift” and Latinized to Godiva) was the driving force behind this endowment, and both of their names appear on the land grants to the monastery of St. Mary, Worcester and the minster of St. Mary, Lincolnshire. Biographers from the period tell us that Leofric and his wife were both very devout and especially trusted their prayers to the Blessed Virgin. The monastery at Coventry was known to be one of the wealthiest religious establishments in the country at the time.
Leofric’s apparent zeal for religion and ensuring that the Church was well-funded obviously required a lot of money – at that time in Britain’s history, the easiest way for a noble to raise money was to levy taxes on the citizens within their domain. For our purposes, we will examine Coventry, for this is where the tale originates.
The people of Coventry were suffering under the weight of Leofric’s taxes – his demands were far above what they felt was reasonable, and as a result the common opinion was that the population was unduly burdened and that something needed to be done. Godgifu, or Lady Godiva, sympathized with the overtaxed citizens and begged Leofric to lower the taxes he was demanding. He refused, only driving Godiva to beg even more for mercy. Her persistent requests to him resulted in an offer, well illustrated in Roger of Wendover’s 13th century Flores Historiarum:
“The countess Godiva, who was a great lover of Gods's mother, longing to free the town of Coventry from the oppression of a heavy toll, often with urgent prayers besought her husband, that from regard to Jesus Christ and his mother, he would free the town from that service, and from all other heavy burdens; and when the earl sharply rebuked her for foolishly asking what was so much to his damage, and always forbade her ever more to speak to him on the subject; and while she on the other hand, with a woman's pertinacity, never ceased to exasperate her husband on that matter, he at last made her this answer, 'Mount your horse, and ride naked, before all the people, through the market of the town, from one end to the other, and on your return you shall have your request.' On which Godiva replied, 'But will you give me permission, if I am willing to do it?' 'I will,' said he.
The terms were simple: ride naked through Coventry, and the tax would be lifted. Leofric was probably quite pleased with his response, as he figured Godiva would never do such a thing. Although different versions of the legend give slightly different versions of Godiva’s actions, Roger of Wendover immortalized his when he continued Flores Historiarum with:
“Whereupon the countess, beloved of God, loosed her hair and let down her tresses, which covered the whole of her body like a veil, and then mounting her horse and attended by two knights, she rode through the market-place, without being seen, except her fair legs; and having completed the journey, she returned with gladness to her astonished husband, and obtained of him what she had asked; for earl Leofric freed the town of Coventry and its inhabitants from the aforesaid service, and confirmed what he had done by a charter."
Other twists on the legend say that Godiva rode through the town clothed in a shift – a garment closely resembling a modern slip – with that being the extend of the Lady’s nudity, but embarrassing nonetheless. It is also thought by some that Lady Godiva simply rode without wearing her best clothes and unadorned by her fine jewels, which would have made her “naked” to the fact that she was of noble rank. No matter the version, the point is that Godiva went to great pains and sacrificed a good deal of dignity to free Coventry of its oppressive taxation.
In the 17th century, the legend of Lady Godiva began to include a proclamation by the lady that all the citizens of the town shut their doors and curtains so as to hide her nudity too the public’s view. Most of the town obeyed this order out of respect for Godiva. The one man who decided not to follow the proclamation was a certain tailor – named Tom. Tom the Tailor, hearing that the noble lady would be riding through the streets naked, bored a hole in his window’s shutter so he could peep out at her when she passed. Tom indeed caught a glimpse of Lady Godiva – and was immediately struck blind. Although unfortunately not all people carrying on this tradition today are blinded, this is thought to be the origin of the phrase “Peeping Tom.” Joseph Draphs further immortalized Lady Godiva in 1926 by founding Godiva Chocolatier, which features the Lady as its logo. While there is little to no reliable and authentic historical evidence to support this legend, it does make for excellent storytelling and highlights what people want in a ruler – benevolence, and willingness to sacrifice.
What can we learn from all this? The next time you feel overburdened by taxes, write to your state’s First Lady or Laura Bush herself, and request a nude ride through the city. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll work.
For any new listeners, let’s take a minute to check out Matt’s Today in History, run by the world-renowned Matt Dattilo.
Thanks, Matt. Although I realize I’m terribly late with this, I do want to congratulate Matt on his and Kelli’s wedding anniversary. I remember being at Matt’s wedding, and looking back I can’t help but wonder if Kelli knew what she was getting into. I wish them both the best and many years of continued marital bliss. With that, we are just about out of time this week. I’d like to thank all of our listeners for tuning in, whether you’re a regular subscriber or just found us recently. Check out my blog at britishhistory101.com for a transcript of this and past episodes. I’d like to commend Blogger for fixing the interface between themselves and my hosting service – the blog appears to be fully functional and I am happy to see it back up. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is “The Fairy Queen,” performed by Da Camera and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until next week, my best to you all, and thanks again for learning with me. Now that we’re done here, go out and make some history!

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Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. I’d like to start this evening off with a comment I received from a listener, who wrote in and said, “Starting to miss your podcasts, as they have entertained me on a regular basis, since I encountered them. Hope all is well with you, and you've some casts lined up for us.” Thanks for that, and I assure you I do have some interesting episodes planned for British History 101. I feel absolutely terrible whenever I’m unable to get an episode out during the week, because I know there are a lot of people out there who are gracious enough to take time out of their day and learn with me; for them, I am committed to doing my best to provide interesting and thought-provoking discussions. Let’s hope tonight is just that. This week’s episode is going to present history with a bit of a modern twist.
On 21 April 1926, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London. The Archbishop of York, Cosmo Lang, baptized the baby girl in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace, christening her with the first name of her mother and the names of her great-grandmother Alexandra and grandmother Mary as her middle names. The young girl’s father was King George VI, and she would become the fair lady that reigns over the British Commonwealth now – Queen Elizabeth II.
When last week’s feature, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936, her father became king, and Elizabeth became Heiress Presumptive to the crown and took the title Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth. Three years later, World War II broke out, and Great Britain’s Heiress Presumptive was evacuated to Windsor Castle. Some wanted Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret to be sent to Canada for obvious safety reasons. Their mother put it quite simply: “The children could not go without me, I will never leave the King, and the King will never leave his country.” That settled that matter, and the girls remained in Britain for the rest of the war. In 1945, Elizabeth went even further than just remaining in the country by joining the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. Her title here was not Princess but rather Number 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor. She is the only female member of the royal family to serve active duty in the armed services
Two years after the war, in the fall of 1947, Princess Elizabeth married her second cousin once removed and third cousin Philip, Prince of Greece and Denmark. They are both in the lines of Christian IX of Denmark and Queen Victoria of England. Philip renounced his place in the line of accession to the Greek throne and was titled the Duke of Edinburgh. Six days shy of a year after her marriage to Philip, Elizabeth gave birth to Charles, her first child and the Prince of Edinburgh.
Her father George’s health began to decline through 1951, and Elizabeth found herself acting in his stead in many affairs. She was on a tour including Greece, Italy, Malta, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Kenya in February of 1952 when King George VI died of lung cancer. This made Elizabeth the first British monarch since 1801 to be out of the country at the time of accession. The next day, February 7, Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen, the speech being read as follows:
WHEREAS it has pleased Almighty God to call to his mercy our late Sovereign Lord King George VI, of blessed and glorious memory, by whose Decease the Crown is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary:
WE, therefore, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm, being here assisted with these His late Majesty’s Privy Council, with representatives of other Members of the Commonwealth, with other Principal Gentlemen of Quality, with the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of London, do now hereby with one Voice and Consent of Tongue and Heart publish and proclaim, that the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is now, by the death of our late sovereign of happy memory, become Queen Elizabeth II by the Grace of God, Queen of this Realm, and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, to whom Her Lieges do acknowledge all Faith and constant Obedience with hearty and humble Affection, beseeching God by whom Kings and Queens do reign, to bless the Royal Princess, Elizabeth II, with long and happy Years to reign over us. God Save the Queen.
With this proclamation, Elizabeth became Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. Currently, she reigns over Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. She holds the titles of Head of the Commonwealth, Lord High Admiral, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Lord of Mann, Duke of Lancaster and Normandy, and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Although in reality Elizabeth exercises little of this power, she is technically the most powerful head of state in the world.
Elizabeth’s reign has been longer than all four monarchs to come immediately before her. If she is still in power on 21 December 2007, she will be the oldest reigning monarch in British history; if her reign continues to 9 September 2015, she will be the longest reigning monarch in British history. With her land holdings and private possessions, she is believed to be worth about $500 million.
If you ask the average person what exactly the Queen does, they’d probably tell you “not much.” The Queen is given a large role in the government and affairs of her Realms, but traditionally most of these powers are delegated to ministers of the government. Constitutionally, the Queen gives Royal Assent to Parliamentary bills; although she reserves the right to deny this Assent, no monarch has done so since 1708. This power is practiced by Governors-General, the men and women placed in charge by the Queen over her Realms outside Britain. These Governors and the Queen herself open their respective Parliaments each year with an outline of the legislative goals for that period. The Queen appoints ministers of the United Kingdom and, legally, all government is carried out in her name. She is the United Kingdom’s Head of State, and as such she can declare war, recognize foreign states, and make treaties. The Queen meets with the Prime Minister of Great Britain on a weekly basis, and is also constantly updated on the happenings of Wales, Scotland, and Canada. Despite the fact that the Queen is not often seen exercising influence over politics, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, “Anyone who imagines that they are a mere formality or confined to social niceties is quite wrong; they are quietly businesslike and Her Majesty brings to bear a formidable grasp of current issues and breadth of experience.” Obviously, Elizabeth has always been and will remain a force to be reckoned with.
In the United Kingdom, Elizabeth is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, delegating authoritative powers to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishops and bishops are both appointed by the Queen, and they sit in the House of Lords as Lords Spiritual. It is a peculiarity to note that, in the Church of Scotland, the Queen is an ordinary member of the congregation.
I was looking at British History 101’s reviews on iTunes a few days ago, and I noticed something quite interesting. On reviewer commented that I spend too much time talking about things other than history. First of all, I’d like to point out that I certainly welcome constructive criticism! After all, we’d never learn any real life lessons without it every once in a while. Second, I have to make it known that it’s for a very specific purpose that I spend time talking about things other than history itself. Even though podcasting has been around for a while now, I still feel that we’re on the very bleeding edge of interpersonal communication and media propagation. To a history and tech geek like me, that’s a terribly fascinating subject and it brings me great joy to discuss it with fellow enthusiasts. I take some time here and there to highlight the ever-increasing expansion of podcasts because I think it’s great for listeners to feel like they’re part of a greater community – because that is exactly what we are finding ourselves in nowadays – an international community of people gathering together though thousands of miles apart to share their interest in an inexplicably wide range of topics. I wish I would have been able to attend the Portable Media Expo recently in Ontario, California, because the stories I’m hearing about it are so very exciting – for those few days, an enormous global community came together to share their insights and experiences in this exploding phenomenon. Whether you’re 18 or 80, podcast listeners and enthusiasts are all playing a part in a movement that I daresay will change the world. I love devoting some time to discussing the podcast revolution because I feel very certain that we are part of events that future generations will truly see as life-changing.
That’s it for this episode. Hopefully, the blog at britishhistory101.com will be up and running soon – I’ve been informed by my hosting service that the blog isn’t being updated due to compatibility issues between the service and Blogger’s new beta feature. I trust they will tend to this quickly! Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is “Fairest Isle All Isles Excell,” performed by Jeni Malia and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until we speak again, my very best to you all, and thanks for joining me. Have a fantastic evening.

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Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. I’m terribly sorry about the lack of an installment last week – due to some rather severe technical difficulties, I was unable to record anything at all. However, British History 101 is back in full swing this week, and I’m glad you’ve tuned in to listen.
Throughout the course of history, it has been quite rare that a ruler will give up their power willingly. Tonight, we’ll take a look at one of those events – the abdication of King Edward VIII. This man, who went from being “Edward VIII, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India,” to the much simpler (and shorter) “His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor,” was at the center of one of England’s most scandalous events during the 20th century.
George V of England died on 20 January 1936, thus passing the throne on to his son Edward. Edward took on the customary Roman numerals immediately, and was proclaimed (but not crowned) king the next day. Edward broke royal protocol by watching the proclamation of himself as king from a window of St. James’ Palace – while a bit unnerving, this breach of protocol is not what gave the nation and Edward’s ministers pause. What was most troubling was Edward’s companion during the proclamation – Mrs. Wallis Simpson, the (still married) woman that Edward had apparently fallen in love with. Edward’s desire to marry Simpson became quite clear when divorce proceedings between Wallis and her husband were brought to Ipswich Crown Court.
Even with Simpson getting a divorce, the situation posed a problem not seen since the days of Henry VIII. British kings since the time of Henry have taken the title Defender of the Faith, and as such the reigning monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England – the Church which did not permit divorced people to remarry in a church while their ex-spouses were still alive. Simpson, with her latest divorce, had two ex-spouses at the time – both of whom were still living. On these grounds, marriage to Simpson was impossible.
More worrisome than the legal and constitutional ramifications of marriage to Simpson was the divorcee’s background. Many saw Wallis as a sex fiend and claimed she held supreme power over Edward via her powers of seduction. It was also known to Edward’s ministers (although not Edward himself) that Wallis had two other lovers while involved with Edward – a married car mechanic and a salesman named Guy Trundle. It has come to light since then that Wallis had yet another lover – Edward Fitzgerald, the Duke of Leinster, who aside from being a peer was also one of King Edward’s closer friends. Simpson disgusted the public in general – especially the public living in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Americans weighed in with their opinions of Wallis, suggesting many terrible things about her – that she had been a prostitute in Baltimore, that she was a “gold digger,” a lesbian (looked down upon by the world at that time), transsexual, and recipient of an abortion. Furthermore, the United States’ FBI reported that Simpson had an affair in 1936 with the German Reich’s Ambassador to Britain, Joachim von Ribbentrop. This led the governments of both the United States and the United Kingdom that Simpson was a Nazi sympathizer – undoubtedly, a terrible thing for the King of Britain to get involved in. While the validity of these claims will most likely never been known for sure, they do an excellent job of portraying the public opinion of Ms. Wallis Simpson in 1936.
Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom under Edward, made it clear that were Edward to marry Wallis, the members of the government under the king would all resign. Baldwin thus presented three options to Edward in handling the situation: 1) Marry, and Wallis Simpson would become Queen (which Edward would not do, as the government would resign); 2) Marry, and Wallis would receive a lesser title than Queen (known as a morganatic marriage); 3) Abdicate, and marry Wallis. Upon review, all but one of Edward’s prime ministers throughout the empire rejected the first two options – they would all resign if he chose either one.
With this in mind, Edward chose the third option – he would have to abdicate. On 10 December 1936, in the presence of his brothers Prince Albert, Duke of York, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and Prince George, Duke of Kent, King Edward VIII signed an instrument of abdication at his home at Fort Belvedere. The following day, Edward committed his last act as King when he gave royal assent to the legislative document acknowledging his leaving of the throne, His Majesty’s Declaration of Abdication Act 1936, thus removing himself as monarch from all the dominions of the Kingdom – except for the Irish Free State. It is an oddity that, because of the way the government worked with the Irish Free State, Edward remained King of Ireland for a day, waiting for the Irish to pass the External Relations act which acknowledged his abdication a day after he did so throughout the rest of the Kingdom.
Edward passed the crown on to his brother Albert, the Duke of York, who immediately became King George VI (whose daughter, we should all know, was Princess Elizabeth). With this, his new title was Prince Edward, until George made him Duke of Windsor soon after – with the provision that “his wife and descendants, if any, shall not hold said title or attribute” – Edward would not pass on his title.
The night that the Declaration of Abdication Act 1936 was signed, Edward made a broadcast to his former Kingdom. The most famous quote from this broadcast is, “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.”
Edward, Duke of Windsor, married his love on 3 June 1937 at Chateau de Candè, Monts, France, where Edward was in exile. Because the Church of England refused to perform the ceremony, the Reverend Robert Jardine of Yorkshire offered to marry the couple in a church ceremony. King George forbade anyone from the royal family from attending the wedding, and told Edward that he would cut off his customary royal allowance if he returned to Britain without an explicit invitation from the king.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor visited Germany that year, on a personal invitation from Adolf Hitler. They then settled in France, where they lived for two years until Germany invaded France, before fleeing to Spain and then Portugal. With Wallis’ alleged affair with the German ambassador and the Duke’s defeatist attitude toward the new war in Europe, it was decided that the pair needed to be kicked out of Europe. A British warship carried them to the Bahamas, where Edward was installed as Governor. It is thought by some that Edward and Wallis were Nazi sympathizers, and that they were shut away in the Bahamas so as to get them away from the war and thus minimize the chance that they would act on their sympathies.
Edward, Duke of Windsor and the proclaimed but never crowned King of Great Britain, died in May 1972 in Paris of throat cancer. He was buried at Frogmore near Windsor Castle, where Wallis joined him in the late 1980s. The man who, at one time, was known as the Prince Edward, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland,” died a blemish on the Windsor family and the shame of a nation. It would be difficult to say that he was missed.
As past listeners know, I’ve been having a lot of trouble with the British History 101 blog. The problem has been corrected, although I hope this is only a temporary fix. The blog’s address is much the same as the old one, but with hyphens inserted; it’s now located at british-history-101.blogspot.com. I understand it’s a terribly cumbersome URL but with the extremely limited budget of British History 101, my domain choices are quite limited. I hope you’ll update your bookmarks and continue to enjoy the blog as much as before!
I received an email this week from Jane in California with her compliments on the show (thank you, Jane!), and she brought a startlingly obvious yet fascinating thought to light. Jane points out that with the beginning of printed text, the printing process (and thus the reception of content) was controlled by geography – people grouped together because, simply, books were available. It didn’t really matter what the books were about; as long as someone was able to read them, people would gather and hear whatever was contained in the text. However, with the development of podcasts, people are now able to gather according to the content itself – if someone knows what they want to learn about, they can hop onto the Internet and find exactly what they’re looking for. We see clusters of people sharing the same thoughts and ideas because they’re able to find each other, whereas before you learned whatever the guy next to you was learning because that’s all there was around. Jane suggested that perhaps there is a parallel between the development of the printed word and the now-podcasted word. Some excellent food for thought, to say the least; drop me a line if you have anything you’d like to pitch in on this issue, and it would be nice if we could continue this discussion in future episodes. Thanks again, Jane.
That’s it for this episode. If you’d like to look back over our discussion of Edward, check out my blog at britishhistory101.com for a transcript of this and, in the future, every other episode – unfortunately I’m not technically savvy enough to import the archived transcripts from the old blog. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is “Angelus ad Virginem,” performed by Briddes Roune and available on Magnatune.com. Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit magnatune.com for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until next week, my best to you all, and have a great night. Thanks for listening, and I can’t wait to learn with you again.

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