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Evelyn Waugh

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Hello, this is Michael Anthony and you’re listening to British History 101, brought to you by Audible.com, the Internet’s leading provider in spoken-word entertainment. Get a FREE audiobook download of your choice when you sign up today. Logon to audiblepodcast.com/british101 today for details.
Tonight’s topic was borne out of my recent conclusion of a 1981 television series that I suspect many of you watched then or have seen since. It starred Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder and Anthony Andrews as Sebastian Flyte, and a few episodes featured Laurence Olivier as Lord Marchmain. I am talking, of course, about the television adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, a novel published in 1945 by author Evelyn Waugh. Tonight, we discuss this author and his fascinating life. For those of you who have read and/or seen Brideshead Revisited, you’ll pick up on parallels between the novel and Waugh’s own life as we discuss the author, but I won’t point them out for those listeners who haven’t explored it yet.
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was born 28 October 1903 to an upper middle class family in the Hampstead area of London. The family’s social status – not poor, but certainly not rich – would influence Waugh (and his writing) for the rest of his life, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Waugh had a happy childhood, fostering a special love for his nanny (quite possibly to the detriment of his relationship with his mother) and a tenuous relationship with his father. With this apparently enjoyable upbringing, it is interesting to consider the fact that Waugh was quite the bully in school at Heath Mount, and Waugh recalled terrorizing one Cecil Beaton: “The tears on his long lashes used to provoke the sadism of youth and my cronies and I tormented him…Our persecution went no further than sticking pins into him and we were soundly beaten for doing so.” When Waugh had completed his education at Heath Mount, he moved on to Lancing College – his second choice, it should be noted. He had hoped to go to the much more prestigious Sherborne, but he was not allowed to attend on account of his brother Alec’s expulsion. Alec had written an apparently rather homoerotic novel and was invited to leave; his younger brother Evelyn was refused entry on those grounds. Waugh knew he was attending a less desirable school and resented it.
Waugh’s next educational institute didn’t suffer from the same social stigma which Waugh had attached to Lancing. He went up to Hertford College at Oxford to read history, but neglected his academic work. Instead Waugh focused on his rip-roaring social life, mixing with various upper-class school mates, aristocrats, and nobility. This undoubtedly lead to Waugh’s developing sense of conservatism in social matters. As a member of the Hypocrites Club Waugh drank heavily (when asked about sport, Waugh would answer “I drank for Hertford.”), and was allegedly involved in numerous homosexual affairs. It was during his time at Oxford that Waugh decided he was an agnostic, saying “There is far too much religion in this University and not enough brains.” The culmination of Waugh’s time at Oxford was qualification for only a third-class degree, which he never even took. His previous priorities of social life over academics obviously came back to plague him. He left Oxford in 1924 and took a teaching job in Wales; while still holding the teaching position, Waugh went through a period of deep depression and even attempted suicide, leaving a note for a friend in Greek. He took the rather odd course of swimming as far out to sea as possible with the intention of drowning, only to turn back due to being stung by a jellyfish!
Evelyn went through a string of jobs, including another teaching position from which he was dismissed after attempting to seduce the matron (Waugh chalked it up to being drunk), apprenticeship to a cabinet-maker, and eventually journalism, a profession at which Waugh excelled. His first novel, a satire of British society, appeared in 1928 entitled Decline and Fall. This was the same year that Waugh married the Honorable Evelyn Margaret Winifred Gardner, granddaughter of Henry Herbert, the 4th Earl Carnarvon. Surely Waugh thought he deserved to be married to such a highly-born woman – let us not forgot his dissatisfaction at having to settle for Lancing College earlier. Unfortunately, the marriage was not a happy one, and Gardner (friends referred to her as She-Evelyn, while Waugh was He-Evelyn) eventually had an affair with a mutual friend. The two were divorced in 1930, providing material for Waugh’s next novel, Handful of Dust.
Waugh’s divorce apparently made him re-think some of his religious beliefs, and that same year he converted to Roman Catholicism. He took his conversion very seriously and dove in headfirst, as it were. He was eventually able to obtain an annulment for his marriage to Evelyn Gardner and was thus able to marry one of the Earl of Carnarvon’s other granddaughters, Laura Herbert. The marriage produced 7 children (one of whom, named Mary, sadly died in infancy). Waugh’s conversion was a watershed in his life, and his newly embraced faith would play a large role in most of his later writings. By this time, Waugh was something of a mover in London social life, and his conversion was widely discussed by higher society, so much so that he eventually responded with an article titled ‘Conversion to Rome: Why It Has Happened to Me.’ Contrary to what many were saying about his proverbial swimming of the River Tiber, Waugh insisted that his conversion was neither about the rituals of Catholic worship nor submission to the Catholic hierarchy; rather, he faced a choice between Christianity and chaos, with Catholicism being the most complete form of Christianity. We’ll discuss Waugh’s conversion and its influence on his writing later, after we finish out the discussion of his life.
Before we continue with the life of Evelyn Waugh, I want to take a second to thank Audible.com for sponsoring today’s show. Audible is the Internet’s leading provider of spoken-word entertainment and has over 35,000 titles to choose from to be downloaded and played back anywhere – just like British History 101. Logon to audiblepodcast.com/british101 to a get a FREE audiobook download of your choice when you sign up today. Again, go to audiblepodcast.com/british101 for your FREE audiobook. When I signed up for Audible, it may have taken me all of 5 minutes to do so, and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to download books for listening. Their selection is simply amazing and I know you’ll find something you like there – I know for a fact they have several of Waugh’s works available.
Waugh spent much time traveling around the world and writing down his experiences (which were later published as travel books), journeying around the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, South America, and Africa, where he saw the coronation of Haile Selassie. Perhaps the greatest adventure of all, though, was Waugh’s commission during World War II, obtained through Randolph Churchill. Waugh was, unfortunately, not the right man to be put in a position of authority, and many colleagues thought him unsuitable for command. One imagines Waugh, a man who expected to be treated well and fancied himself as good as any aristocrat, rather uncomfortable in a field tent eating undoubtedly less-than-satisfactory food in the middle of a warzone. Waugh requested, and was somehow granted, leave in 1944 (probably through Randolph Churchill), even while the Allies were preparing for the invasion of Normandy. Waugh missed the invasion – he was busy writing Brideshead Revisited, which was published the following year. 1944 did see Waugh back in action, however, having been reassigned to the Royal Horse Guards and on mission to Yugoslavia, where he was very nearly captured by the German army. We recall Evelyn’s enthusiasm for conversion in his writing of a detailed report of the suffering inflicted on the Catholic faithful and clergy by Tito there – a report neatly shelved later as irrelevant. Waugh’s experiences in World War II would later be reflected in his trilogy of books called the Sword of Honour, even today regarded as some of the best writing about the war.
After the war, Waugh spent most of his time back in Somerset, living as country gentleman as he no doubt thought he should. He eventually entered a period of self-induced decline, both in writing and physical health, due to abuse of sleeping medication, heavy drinking, and lack of exercise. 1957’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold chronicles the protagonist’s fall into insanity, a prosaic description of Waugh’s own slipping. While he continued to be an excellent journalist, Waugh was less and less well received as an author, with his Basil Seal Rides Again being regarded with nowhere near the same respect as his earlier works. His declining health lead to his death on 10 April 1966. That day was Easter Sunday, on which he had attended Mass in the beloved rite into which he had converted. He lies buried at the family estate Combe Florey, Somerset.
I think it vital that we discuss three things about Evelyn Waugh, namely his Catholicism, his views of the aristocracy in Britain, and his generation of peers. On the first, I wish to make it clear that this is not intended to be a preaching session, but Waugh is regarded as one of the greatest Catholic writers of the twentieth century, and I want to explain why and the circumstances surrounding that high regard. Waugh was a zealous convert, and even wrote lives of the saintly men Edward Campion and Ronald Knox. When he was writing Brideshead Revisited in 1944, Waugh intended it to be the obituary of the fading British aristocracy; he later realized, after the publication of the Sword of Honour trilogy, that it was, in fact, the obituary of the Catholic Church in England as it had existed for centuries. He was fiercely proud of the Mass and was utterly shocked and dismayed by the Second Vatican Council and the liturgy that many bishops around the world interpreted to have come from the Council. Waugh is later quoted as saying “I am now old but I was young when I was received into the Church…One of the extraneous attractions of the Church which most drew me was the spectacle of the priest and his server at low Mass, stumping up to the altar without a glance to discover how many or how few he had in his congregation; a craftsman and his apprentice; a man with a job which he alone was qualified to do. That is the Mass I have grown to know and love. By all means let the rowdy have their ‘dialogues,’ but let us who value silence not be completely forgotten.” He also said in a letter “Easter used to mean so much to me. Before Pope John and his Council – they destroyed the beauty of the liturgy. I have not yet soaked myself in petrol and gone up in flames, but I now cling to the Faith doggedly without joy.” One sees something of J.R.R. Tolkien in Evelyn Waugh. I think Waugh offered an unfair assessment of Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, but it is important to understand Waugh’s crisis of faith later in life. He wrote prolifically for The Tablet, the Catholic Herald, and Commonweal, forming an important look into the history of the post-Conciliar Catholic Church. Again, none of that was intended to push a religious agenda through to you, the listeners, no matter what belief system you follow, but I think it’s important for understanding Waugh as a whole.
Waugh held rather paradoxical views of the British aristocracy. If you read his “An Open Letter to the Honorable Mrs. Peter Rodd on A Very Serious Subject,” you will see how he understands that the aristocracy is defined not by what it is, but by what it is not. There is no set of clear rules, but everyone knows them anyway. Much of his work satirizes high society, while at the same time he enjoyed being a social mover and shaker and certainly “loved a lord” as one author put it. I think he saw the shortcomings of the aristocratic society but desperately wanted to be a part of it anyway, perhaps seeking to purify it in some way.
The last thing I want to mention is the so-called ‘Waugh generation,’ those men who were too young during World War I to serve or have much memory of it but who so desperately wished they had been old enough. This is an interesting movement in British history, and we would do well to discuss it. Those of you familiar with Brideshead Revisited will recall a scene with a certain character reciting part of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land from a balcony to his friends below, all of whom applaud his recital. These men, this generation, were well aware of the horror and violence of the First World War, but they understood none of it. They felt they had missed out on an opportunity to serve their nation, to fight evil, and be a part of something larger than themselves. It is because of this that many went off to volunteer in the Spanish Civil War and enlisted for the Second World War, as their ‘chance’ had finally come to live what they had missed in 1914-1918. Surely, though, many of them learned that war brought a downward spiral of violence that they could never have dreamed of and regretted their jealousy of veterans from the First World War.
Evelyn Waugh was a fascinating man with a fascinating life, and I do hope you will explore his writing, and definitely read Brideshead Revisited if you read nothing else by him. With that suggestion, we will end this episode of British History 101. A transcript of this and past episodes of the show can be found at BritishHistory101.com. Send questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Check out British History 101 on Facebook and feel free to follow me on Twitter under the name maskaggs. You can also contact me by regular mail at:
Michael Anthony
Host, British History 101
PO Box 1177
Bloomington, Indiana 47408
United States of America

If you’d like to support British History 101, leave a review on iTunes, Facebook, or any podcast directory. You can also check out the British History 101 wish list on Amazon.com or send me feedback directly – I want your help in making the show better! Thanks to Audible.com, John Hawskley, and Simon Mulligan for being such a huge part of British History 101, and most of all to you for joining me. I’ve enjoyed our discussion and look forward to doing it again. Farewell until next time!

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The Long Range Desert Group

This podcast is brought to you by Audible.com. Download a free audiobook of your choice today at audiblepodcast.com/british101.

Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101, brought to you by Audible.com, the Internet’s leading provider of spoken-word entertainment. Get a FREE audiobook download of your choice when you sign up today. Logon to audiblepodcast.com/british101 today for details and your FREE audiobook download.
Tonight’s episode was not inspired by any thought or research taken on my own initiative; rather, it is the result of an opportunity I was graciously offered and decided to take. We’ll get to that later. First, the history.
In the First World War, units known as Light Car Patrols were used by the Allied forces in combat in the Middle East and North Africa. The Light Car Patrols were made up of Ford Model Ts converted to carry a Lewis machine gun and intended to carry out reconnaissance and brief hit-and-run strikes against Central Power forces. This was known to a certain Ralph Bagnold, and it is with this man that our story begins.
Ralph Bagnold was born in 1896 and became a veteran of the First World War, fighting for three years in the trenches of France. He enrolled at Cambridge after the war was over (although we must always ask ourselves – did the First World War ever really end, or was the armistice merely a pause before 1939? But that’s for a later show). He enrolled at Cambridge after his duty in France but returned to the armed forces in 1921 and served in Cairo and India, places where he spent the majority of his free time exploring nearby deserts: for desert exploration and mapping was Bagnold’s true passion. He even took part in a 1929 expedition across the sand in a Ford Model T, the same car used by the LCPs in the “war to end all wars.” He gained a spot in history as a pioneer of desert exploration in 1932 when he made the first recorded east to west crossing of the Libyan Desert, a dangerous undertaking even today. Bagnold also pioneered practical aspects of desert travel, such as lowering tyre pressure when travelling across loose sand, driving over large sand dunes at high speed, and what would come to be known as the Bagnold sun compass – a compass which is not affected by the large deposits of iron ore found throughout the desert and the metal content of the vehicles navigated by it.
Bagnold left the army in 1935, but it was only to be a few years before he was deeply involved in service to Britannia again. By chance, Bagnold happened to be in Cairo when Italy declared war on Great Britain in 1940; with his knowledge of the African desert, past military service, and remembrance of the utility of the Light Car Patrols in the First World War, Bagnold thought the same principle could be applied to combat the Italians in North Africa. Let us not forget that Bagnold had previously travelled into the desert astride a Model T! He requested an interview with General Wavell, the commander of the North African military forces, to ask permission to form a group similar to the LCPs. Bagnold had made this suggestion in 1939 but it had been rejected; now, however, with the threat of Italian forces coming across the top of the African continent, the army was much more willing to listen, and Bagnold was given 6 weeks to put this group together. Bagnold’s new outfit was duly established on 3 July 1940, and it would become a group later known even to Erwin Rommel as a highly effective special forces unit – the Long Range Desert Group.
Bagnold founded the Group with two equally qualified men, Bill Kennedy Shaw and Pay Clayton. Captain Kennedy Shaw was a British desert explorer, botanist, and archaeologist. If anyone knew anything about the desert, it was Kennedy Shaw. Bagnold brought him aboard as the intelligence and chief navigation officer. Pat Clayton had even more localized experience – he had spent 20 years with the Egyptian Survey department.
The Long Range Desert Group was distantly inspired by the Light Car Patrols of the First World War, and would carry out mechanized reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and desert navigation and mapping. Its main purpose was recon and intelligence, but the LRDG was sometimes called upon to carry out heavy strikes against the Afrikakorps and their Italian allies in the North African desert. Interestingly, Bagnold originally requested that the unit be made up of Australians and New Zealanders, with the thought that due to their knowledge of rural and farm living they would be better suited for navigating across the desolate desert sands. The Australian government refused to let their soldiers join the LRDG, as Australians were only to fight in Australian combat groups. This was more than offset by the enthusiasm of New Zealander soldiers – 150 volunteered. Later, British and Rhodesian soldiers would also join the Group.
The Group quickly earned a well-deserved reputation as expert desert navigators, and for this reason they were often use for various transport missions. They travelled many, many miles through desert wastes to transport the SAS, the Free French in Africa, rescued prisoners of war, captured prisoners of war, downed pilots, and even irregular units like Popski’s Private Army.
Popski’s Private Army, or PPA, deserves mention here on its own. Officially the unit was designated Number One Demolition Squad, PPA, and was formed in 1942 by Major Vladimir Peniakoff. Due to the difficulty some had with the major’s name, he was often simply called Popski. The PPA was formed as part of the British 8th Army to attack Erwin Rommel’s fuel supplies involved in the Battle of El Alamein. You can gather from the PPA’s official designation what their missions were in layman’s terms – they blew stuff up, and were very good at it. Popski’s Private Army, driven around the desert in the trucks of the Long Range Desert Group, served with distinction in North Africa and went on to see action in Italy as well.
A few minutes ago I mentioned the Free French, and this mention is due to incredible work on the part of Ralph Bagnold. The LRDG was able to transport the Free French around Africa precisely because of what Bagnold did in 1940. In that year, Bagnold travelled to Chad and entered negotiations with the Free French there. Prior to his arrival, the French were not allies of the British forces in Africa. When Bagnold left, they were. With the help of these additional men, the Long Range Desert Group was able to accomplish one of its biggest combat victories, the capture of Kufra, where the LRDG established headquarters in 1941.
The Long Range Desert Group went on to contribute greatly to the war in North Africa. Through gathering intelligence on Afrikakorps and Italian troops, mapping terrain never before traversed (and often never before seen) by British military forces, and quick, decisive, and devastating strikes against the enemy, the Long Range Desert Group was a major part of Allied victory in North Africa. Could we say that Montgomery would not have defeated Rommel in Africa without the help of the LRDG? It is hard to give a definitive answer, but in my opinion the answer is yes. It is entirely possible that the Allied war effort in North Africa would have ultimately been a failure without the efforts of the Long Range Desert Group and the units it worked with to defeat Hitler’s Afrikakorps. The Group would go on to serve in the Greek islands, Italy, and Normandy, but it built itself a lasting legacy by its achievements attained in the sandy wastes of Africa. Without the knowledge held by Ralph Bagnold, Bill Kennedy Shaw, and Pat Clayton, none of it would have ever happened – proof that their lifelong dedication to the desert served a higher purpose!
Let’s take a moment to thank the sponsor of British History 101, Audible.com. Audible is the Internet’s leading provider in spoken-word entertainment, and has over 35,000 titles to choose from to be downloaded and played back anywhere – just like British History 101. Logon to audiblepodcast.com/british101 to get a FREE audiobook download of your choice when you sign up today. Again, go to audiblepodcast.com/british101 for your FREE audiobook. As a matter of fact, if you sign up with Audible, you can download the book that inspired today’s episode and see precisely why I wanted to share it and the story behind it with all of you. As fellow historians I know you’ll enjoy it, and here’s why.
Earlier I mentioned that this episode grew out of an opportunity given me. I was contacted by a book publicity firm to review a book called Killing Rommel by Steven Pressfield. I accepted the invitation and duly read Mr. Pressfield’s book; as soon as I was a few chapters into it, I knew I had to do an episode of British History 101 on the book’s subject. Killing Rommel chronicles the time spent by one man with the Long Range Desert Group on their book-titling mission – to kill Erwin Rommel, the legendary ‘Desert Fox’ whose mere presence at a battle struck fear into the hearts of Allied soldiers. The book is written in the style of historical fiction; that is, the events and people in the novel all either really happened and existed or are heavily rooted in historical reality.
Steven Pressfield is an author with vast experience in war writing, and penned such works as Gates of Fire, Tides of War, and The Legend of Bagger Vance. Mr. Pressfield was kind enough to allow me to interview him for the show, and what follows is are the questions and answers exchanged by us. I think they have enormous value for anyone interested in reading Killing Rommel but there is also much to be gained from them for anyone interested in history and historiography, such as listeners of British History 101:
Why Killing Rommel? What drove you to write this novel out of all the topics you could have chosen?
I was researching the cavalry tactics used by Alexander the Great – not easy because there’s very little extant from the ancient sources. So, moving further afield, I began studying horse tactics used by Frederick the Great, Napoleon, our own Civil War generals … sure enough, I wound up with Rommel and Heinz Guderian, the great German masters of mobile armored warfare, the tactics of which are a lot like ancient cavalry tactics. That was it. I was hooked.
Why this style? You have taken factual events, people, and places and placed a fictional character in their midst. Was there too little information on any one person to create a narrative from a real LRDG member, or did you simply prefer the freedom of using your own?
I’ve used the fictive memoir in earlier books, particularly “Tides of War.” I like it. It’s immediate, it’s intimate, it sucks the reader in and really gives him the picture. Plus, in studying various WWII memoirs, I was captivated by the style (three great ones: “The Forgotten Soldier” by Guy Sajer, “Brazen Chariots” by Maj. Robert Crisp and “Take These Men” by Cyril Joly). Real-life accounts of the desert exploits of British special forces units, the SAS and the Long Range Desert Group, were equally riveting. I decided to use the real-life WWII memoir as the template for my fictional story.
As to why I inserted a fictional character, I never thought of doing otherwise. My aim was to write a novel, not a history. It was imperative to have a character I could shape to a theme. The real-life characters are there primarily for verisimilitude, to ground the story in reality. It’s a technique used to wonderful effect by the American writer E.L. Doctorow in “Ragtime” and other books, where he tosses real historical characters like Stanford White in with characters of his own creation. It works!
The Long Range Desert Group – how did you carry out your research on this prestigious covert force?
There are a number of memoirs and books written by former LRDG officers and men, and other really good accounts on the subject written by historians and enthusiasts since then. I read and studied them – and everything else I could find about the era. I also went to the Imperial War Museum in London and the National Archives…and photocopied great rafts of actual Long Range Desert Group documents – Operations Orders and Combat Reports, that sort of thing. Those were invaluable, not to mention absolutely fascinating. One of the best byproducts of this research was that I was able to send to the son of one of the LRDG heroes (Rev. Warner Wilder in New Zealand) a copy of the actual combat report made out by his Dad, Captain Nick Wilder of the Long Range Desert Group, in which Nick Wilder made a reconnaissance discovery that helped turn the tide of the whole North African war. That was fun.
Killing Rommel is obviously an exhaustively researched book that doubtlessly took many, many months (if not years) of work to bring together. It is clear to the reader that you think it is important to remember the Long Range Desert Group; why is it important?
My aim was not specifically to do anything about the LRDG. What fascinated me was two aspects of the war in the Western desert – first, the chivalry demonstrated by both sides in this krieg ohne hass, as Rommel called it, “War without hate,” and second, the aspect, evinced particularly by the British and Commonwealth troopers in these early Special Forces units, of being “regular blokes,” not professional lifelong soldiers, who nonetheless rose spectacularly to the occasion when necessity demanded this. I wanted to showcase this quality that distinguishes British and empire forces so frequently (and Americans as well, even though there are none in this story.)
In this contemporary era of suicide bombers and waterboarding, when chivalry and voluntary self-restraint in war seem so remote as to be virtually impossible to imagine, I think it might serve a purpose to remind ourselves that there really was a campaign, not too long ago, that though it was contested fiercely and to the death by armies locked in a mortal struggle of global scale and consequence, was yet fought with honor and respect for the enemy, seeing him a fellow human being. That’s why “Killing Rommel” ends the way it does, in a highly affirmative way.
Again, I’m not trying to write history, I’m writing a novel and a novel has a theme – which hopefully is pertinent in this contemporary time, even if the actual story takes place in the past. The war in the desert was, from everything I’ve read, indeed a “war without hate.” That’s why I “went there” – to tell a version of that story and bring it back to this modern day.

Many thanks to Mr. Pressfield for sharing his thoughts with both me and the listeners of British History 101. Killing Rommel is available through most booksellers and the usual Internet outlets such as Amazon.com; I highly recommend it to everyone, and especially through Audible.com. Listening to a book being read is really an enjoyable experience! For more information on the background of the book, head over to http://www.killingrommel.com, where you can find a wealth of information and three videos there made by Mr. Pressfield in the desert with re-enactor vehicles and WWII war footage – there’s a ten minute video, a three minute video, and a thirty-second clip that you might find very interesting on this subject. You can find out more about Mr. Pressfield at http://www.stevenpressfield.com. You can find my review of Killing Rommel immediately under the transcript for this episode at BritishHistory101.com. Again, many thanks are due to the author. I extend my warmest gratitude for giving us a great episode!
One of the concepts you will find discussed in Killing Rommel is the apparent chivalry displayed by the belligerents in the North African campaigns, and I don’t think I’m giving away too much of the book to talk about it a bit here. Medics were almost always allowed to retrieve wounded men, and it was not uncommon for troops from both sides of the conflict to be treated shoulder to shoulder by the same doctor. Men obviously incapacitated were not targeted, and much of the cruelty seen throughout the rest of the Second World War was often absent. This is interesting when viewed in light of warfare before and after the War; we must compare the War in Africa with the fields of Agincourt, Bosworth Field, Austerlitz, the Somme, Fallujah, Afghanistan, Normandy, and countless other battles throughout history. How did chivalry in combat play out in history? Was it a noble but unrealistic idea or discernable code of behavior? Why was it that the soldiers fighting in North Africa felt it their responsibility to treat the enemy with humanity and decency? This stands in stark contrast to the horror in war we read about every day in newspapers and on websites. Where has the chivalry gone? Why wasn’t it present on some battlefields before the Second World War and farther back in history? I suspect the answers to these questions extend far beyond the bounds of this podcast, but they are food for thought nonetheless.
You can find another video sent to me by Mr. Pressfield at British History 101’s newest Internet location. The blog at BritishHistory101.com will still be, by far, the main site I use to share ideas and news with listeners; however, those of you involved in the social network Facebook will now be able to find British History 101 there, as well! Simply search for British History 101 and you’ll find my page there, complete with videos, photos, events, discussion topics, contact information, and the ability to become an official, tried-and-true fan of the show! With this new Facebook page comes a bit of a confession, however, and two years into the show I feel it’s time to fess up. You’ve known me from the beginning as Michael Anthony, and this name is completely accurate. However, it’s not my full name. Michael is indeed my first name, and Anthony comes right after it, although it’s not my last name. My last name is Skaggs, S-K-A-G-G-S. When I began the show, I had the feeling that Skaggs wouldn’t roll off the tongue quite as well or be as audibly acceptable as Anthony, so I stuck to just the first and middle names. I’ll continue to use just those two, since that’s how it’s always been, but I didn’t want those of you who visited the Facebook page to be confused by the fact that the page is administered by Michael Anthony Skaggs and not just Michael Anthony! The same goes for why my Twitter name is maskaggs. As I said before the show will still officially be owned and produced by Michael Anthony, and that is how I’ll address all correspondence, but the truth is out now. So that’s where we stand. I do hope you will forgive my name truncation and enjoy the show all the same!
With that, we’ll conclude this episode of British History 101. Thanks are due to so many people – author Steven Pressfield, master musicians John Hawksley and Simon Mulligan, and Audible.com, but most importantly they are due to each and every one of you. Listeners have been tuning in to British History 101 for over two years now, and every episode is my distinct privilege to produce and share with you. Thank you so much for learning with me and being my faithful companions along my own journey into history. You’ve often heard me describe learning history as a journey, and I think this is the most accurate description we can give it. Let us hope we never reach a destination – the travel itself is our goal.
A transcript of this and past episodes of British History 101 is available at BritishHistory101.com. Send questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. I can also be reached via Skype at BritishHistory101 and through Twitter on the name maskaggs. If you’d like to contact me by regular mail, my address is:
Michael Anthony
British History 101
PO Box 1177
Bloomington, Indiana 47408
United States of America

If you’d like to support British History 101, post a review on iTunes, any podcast directory, or the Facebook page. You can also check out the British History 101 wishlist at Amazon.com.
I feel every episode is even more fun to produce than the last. It is in such hope that I bid you good evening until we meet again to sit round the campfire of history and learn more about our cherished Britain!

Links for this episode:
Killing Rommel
Steven Pressfield
John Hawksley’s MP3 archive
Simon Mulligan
British History 101’s Amazon wishlist

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The Blitz

Thanks to Audible.com for sponsoring the show! Download a free audiobook of your choice at audiblepodcast.com/british101.

Good evening, this is Michael Anthony and you’re listening to British History 101, brought to you by Audible.com. Audible is the Internet’s leading provider in spoken-word entertainment and you can get a FREE audiobook download of your choice when you sign up at audiblepodcast.com/british101. Check out Audible NOW and browse their extensive library when you logon at audiblepodcast.com/british101.
In this episode of our show, we are going to discuss one of the most well-known and oft-invoked events in British history – the World War II Blitz of Britain by Hitler’s Luftwaffe. The Blitz calls to mind the quintessential British spirit, the emergence of Albion from the smoke and flames with which Hitler so desperately tried to soften up Britain before an invasion. Ultimately, the Fuhrer’s attempt failed and his attention had to be directed elsewhere, but it is certain that the events of 1940-1941 will be remembered alongside the Conquest, King Alfred’s Viking wars, Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, and other such landmarks for countless generations.
The commonly used term Blitz derives from Blitzkrieg, the trademark World War II strategy employed by the German army (most effectively in the invasion of Poland in September 1939). By the time the Blitz began on 7 September 1940, the Battle of Britain had been raging in the skies over the island for several months. The Luftwaffe had been trying to wear the Royal Air Force down and gain air superiority over the course of the summer to allow a seaborne invasion. This invasion would have completed the Nazi’s Operation Sea Lion, obviously with disastrous results for the British people (and likely the rest of Europe and beyond). Hitler’s intentions were clear, and predictions were dire when considering the bombing campaign that was surely coming. In the spring of 1939, before Germany invaded Poland but the likelihood of war was becoming larger and larger, government estimates of casualties in the event of a bombing campaign were horrific – estimates predicted 600,000 killed, with double that number – 1.2 million – injured. In an attempt to prevent children from becoming a part of this estimate, 650,000 of them were evacuated from cities to the surrounding countryside.
This evacuation is an interesting event in itself. Many of the children had never been far away from home, much less outside of the city in which they lived. The rural experience was an entirely different world from that to which they were accustomed, and the results of such a transition varied widely. Many of the evacuees enjoyed the excursion, marveling at the open spaces, kindness of villagers, meals cooked with homegrown food, and the many other aspects of country life that obviously differ from the urban upbringing. Some children came from very poor families and the good treatment they received made them reluctant to return to the cities. Many were less than well behaved – accounts abound of foul-mouthed youngsters, boys relieving themselves in the middle of the road, petty theft of anything not tied down, and outright refusal to bathe. Although the 1939 estimate of casualties ended up being an exaggerated number, city dwellers were undoubtedly grateful that their precious children – salty mouths or no – were safe in the countryside.
The Blitz is usually said to have begun on 7 September 1940, when over 300 German bombers and 500 fighters attacked London, mostly targeting the docks along the River Thames. Many of the bombs dropped from the bays of German airplanes missed their targets and fell on residential areas, killing over 400 Londoners. On that first night of bombing, London’s anti-aircraft defenses were far less than adequate and few German bombers were harmed. Nighttime raids continued, and from mid-September to mid-November German bombers dropped their deadly cargo on every single night except one. One of the worst nights was 15 October, when over 400 bombers attacked London for six hours. This early phase of the Blitz forms part of so-called “downward spiral” of violence in warfare. It is difficult for those of us who did not experience the war firsthand to imagine the terror and chaos that this caused. I would challenge anyone who hasn’t lived through long-term bombing to just try and understand what it was like to experience continual bombardment every single night, knowing that the enemy’s entire goal is to kill innocent civilians in an attempt to break national morale, as this is precisely what Hitler aimed to do.
From November 1940 to February 1941, the Luftwaffe began heavier bombing of industrial and port cities. In addition to breaking morale, this would theoretically cripple British war production and disable ports that could launch warships. Aside from London, the clear and away heaviest hit city of the Blitz, bombs fell all around the British Isles: Belfast, Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow, Hull, Plymouth, Coventry, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Southampton, Clydebank, Avonmouth, Swansea, Sunderland, and Newcastle were all hit. The bombing of 29 December led to what has been called the Second Great Fire of London, an event captured in the famous photo of St. Paul’s Cathedral surrounded by smoke and flames but miraculously unharmed itself.

St. Paul\'s Cathedral, 29 December 1940

After being inside this masterpiece of architecture and thinking of it being destroyed, it is easy to understand the cultural theft that would have occurred had the Luftwaffe reduced it to rubble.
From February 1941 to the end of the Blitz, the Luftwaffe concentrated even more heavily on Britain’s numerous seaports. By this point, though, the efforts of Sir Frederick Pile, the Commander-in-Chief of Anti-Aircraft Command, had increased the effectiveness of AA guns, and more and more German bombers and fighters were being downed by brave gunners defending the cities. The 10th of May 1941 saw the official end of the Blitz, although various bombing raids would continue on and off for the rest of the war. That day sadly saw the destruction of the British Museum, the Houses of Parliament, and St. James’s Palace. However, better British defenses and Hitler’s need to turn his attention eastward in advance of his soon to occur invasion of the Soviet Union under Operation Barbarossa meant that the worst was over. Pre-Blitz casualty estimates were fortunately heavily exaggerated, but approximately 43,000 civilians still lost their lives to German bombs.
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In addition to some of Winston Churchill’s most memorable speeches, part of the iconic sound of the Blitz experience is the reporting of American CBS correspondent Edward R. Murrow. This segment is from August 1940, the month before the Blitz is remembered to have started.
Murrow’s reports from the middle of the mayhem gained much sympathy for Londoners on the part of the American people. Here’s a piece from a broadcast made during the Blitz proper.
Citizens living in target cities had few options when it came to what precisely to do during a raid. One way that many people escaped the bombing was called “trekking,” by which citizens went about their normal jobs during the day and “trekked” out to the countryside every night to sleep in relative safety, often walking many, many miles every single day. This posed a problem in that it led to a rise in absenteeism from work, especially once employees had been trekking for weeks on end – sheer exhaustion prevented many from making the hike into and out of the city every day. The other option available was hunkering down in shelters, a hotly debated and still-controversial wartime problem.
Prior to the war, the government feared the development of so-called “deep shelter mentality” if large capacity shelters were constructed for citizens to use. The fear came from the thought that if civilians were provided with central safe havens, they would not want to come back out of the shelters once a raid was over and thus would not be able to contribute to the war effort. To this end, the Anderson shelter was designed in 1938. The Anderson shelter was constructed out of corrugated metal, measuring 1.8 meters tall by 1.4 meters wide by 2 meters deep – or 6 feet by 4 ½ feet by 6 ½ feet. Either way, it was a small space designed to hold 6 people. The shelter was intended to be installed in every family’s garden, where it would be partially buried and then covered in dirt. The led to many decorative shelters: with the small building being covered in dirt, many families planted flowers and other plants on their shelters in a bid to make the ominous war-time escape from danger a tad more pleasant-looking. The Anderson was provided free to households with an annual income of less than £250; otherwise, the shelter could be had for £7. This would, in theory, allow every family to have their own private shelter to which they could quickly retreat and then emerge from after a raid. After the war, the government collected most of the shelters to be used for scrap metal, although one could keep their shelter for a small fee if so desired – because of this, Anderson shelters can still be found in gardens to this day, often used as sheds to store yard tools.
An interesting question comes up when considering the Anderson shelter: what about those families without gardens, in high-density and/or government provided housing estates? These people had no Andersons, and thus at the beginning no place to go. When the Blitz started, many sought out any public building with a basement that could be found. Ironically, one such location was the church crypt, and one can’t help but wonder how often it crossed the minds of sheltered civilians that the dead were almost literally keeping them alive. The government was slow to respond, at first building relatively small shelters in the street; these, however, were poorly constructed, unsanitary, and often simply collapsed during raids, even without a direct hit, killing all inside. An obvious place to seek refuge in London was the tube system, far enough underground to withstand all but a direct hit. Again we are reminded of the government’s fear of deep shelter mentality, and so the tube was officially off-limits as a shelter to begin with. Many Londoners simply bought tickets for the underground and never boarded, instead opting to sleep on station platforms throughout the night. Eventually even this tactic was done away with, and citizens went down into the stations of their own accord, regardless of government prohibition. It was not uncommon for passengers on the tube to ride through stations literally packed with sleeping bodies, huddled families, and crying children. Seeing the futility of combating this mass movement underground, the government eventually supplied bunk beds and toilets to tube stations, which made life under the destroyed city a bit more bearable. As many as 60,000 people per night could be found throughout London’s massive underground tunnel system.
The tube, as viable as an option as it was given the conditions beforehand, was not invincible. Station were susceptible to collapse if they suffered a direct hit, which unfortunately happened on many occasions. The government eventually acquiesced to the demands of Londoners and constructed deep shelters under the city, the first major one being in the vaults beneath the Fruit and Wool Exchange in Brushfield Street. Such a shelter held 10,000 people in safety from bombardment, but conditions inside were less than pleasant: they were dark, stale chambers, often filthy with sweat, urine, and other bodily waste. Restroom accommodations were not even part of the original plan, although they were later installed to mitigate the problem of open sewage. In the end 8 such shelters were constructed – albeit by the end of 1942, over a year after the worst period of bombing now called the Blitz was officially over.
While researching this episode, one of the sources which I read was a piece from the BBC entitled “Sorting the Myth from Reality” regarding the Blitz. It was an interesting read, to be sure, and I’d like to offer some of my own comments. The piece asserts that the so-called “Myth of the Blitz,” the community spirit which crossed class, gender, and age, the unconquerable soul of the stalwart British people (and especially Londoners) was just that – a myth, created by Allied victory. In reality, according to the BBC, the upper echelons of society were safe in their country manors and urban basement clubs, while those below them on the social ladder were left to fend for themselves in the cities. There was no real “British spirit” of defiance against Nazi terror, of showing the two-handed V to Hitler; rather, citizens sought simply to save their own lives and hide from destruction. There was no feeling of solidarity and kinsmanship with fellow countrymen. This is an assertion that I, as an historian, firmly reject. It is true that those who had to live under a constant rain of German bombs did indeed have to save their own lives and take necessary steps to protect themselves and their families; however, the fact that the government’s fear of deep shelter mentality never set it (trekking absenteeism aside) and the people of Britain, most especially London, kept about their daily business and fought for the war effort prove that there was indeed a quintessential British spirit during the dark fall, winter, and spring of 1940-1941. Thousands enlisted in voluntary service organizations, working as air raid wardens to ensure blackout measures were being taken, driving ambulances to ferry the wounded to hospitals, and fighting fires caused by explosions while bombs were still falling all around. The so-called “Myth of the Blitz” is not, in my estimation, a myth in the modern sense of the word. The British people bravely faced down the hellish onslaught brought by the Luftwaffe, and surely this generation deserves to be remembered and hallowed by their descendant countrymen. Historians and scholars often look back on honored events and people and take a critical look at the vaunted aura surrounding them, trying to decipher how much truth lies beneath some sort of victorious veneer. In the case of the Blitz, I do not think there is much of a veneer or naively vague covering. The truth of the matter is that the British people refused to be destroyed, pushing themselves toward victory in this “total war” that tore Europe apart from 1939 to 1945.
That’s all for this episode of British History 101. A transcript of this and previous episode of the podcast can be found at BritishHistory101.com. Send questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. You can also contact me by Skype under the name BritishHistory101, via Twitter under the name maskaggs, that’s m-a-s-k-a-g-g-s, and by regular mail at:
Michael Anthony
British History 101
PO Box 1177
Bloomington, Indiana 47408
United States of America

I think I should use this opportunity to announce a brief official hiatus from the show from the 19th of May (that’s next Monday) until approximately two weeks later – not too long, I promise. I will be on holiday on the coast of Florida here in the States and will not have access to any sort of recording setup in the lodging at which I am staying. Nonetheless, the 12 days of downtime that I will have will be a valuable opportunity to do plenty of research on the next topic, so send me your suggestions and I will get cracking on our next episode, which will be released shortly after I return on the 30th! Please feel free to reach me during that period, however – I will have intermittent access to email and will answer whenever I am able to!
I’d like to thank British History 101’s sponsors at Audible.com and the wonderful music provided by John Hawksley at hawksley.net/mp3 and Simon Mulligan and simonmulligan.com. As always many thanks are owed to you, the listeners, for joining me on our excursions into the misty past of Britain. It’s always a pleasure and I look forward to joining you again. Until then, have a wonderful day and we’ll talk again soon.

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Edward I

Thanks to Audible.com for sponsoring British History 101! Check them out at audiblepodcast.com/british101 and get a free audiobook of your choice when you sign up!

Hello, this is Michael Anthony and you’re listening to British History 101, brought to you by Audible.com. Audible is the Internet’s leading provider in spoken-word entertainment and you can get a FREE audiobook download of your choice when you sign up at audiblepodcast.com/british101. Check out Audible NOW and browse their extensive library when you logon at audiblepodcast.com/british101.
Tonight, we will discuss a man far away from his homeland when he received news that he had become King of England. Prince Edward was born to Henry III and Eleanor of Provence in the evening of 17 June 1239 at the Palace of Westminster. He grew up to be an able and athletic boy, known for his physical strength and endurance but also for his impatience and sometimes cruelty in his youth. He eventually gained a leading role in his father’s royal council, thus gaining valuable insight into royal and political dealings long before he was to wear the crown himself. His political prowess was matched by his ability on the battlefield, and by the important year of 1265 he was already an accomplished general. This year is significant to our understanding of British (in this case, more specifically English) history because it saw the downfall of one of the country’s most powerful rebel lords, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. The Earl had revolted against Henry III’s government and captured the king and his entourage at Lewes in 1264, when he began a period of “protectorate” rule, lasting a little over a year. However, during the protectorate Edward escaped imprisonment and raised an army, facing de Montfort at Evesham on 4 August 1265. The King’s son was victorious, and soon Henry III was released and returned to his rightful reign over England.
Prince Edward was in Sicily on the return voyage from crusade (during which he survived an attempted assassination) when on 20 November 1272 he ascended to the throne of his father, King Henry III of England, who had died 4 days prior. As the new king was away, some sort of government naturally had to fall into place to run the country until the monarch returned, and that duty was shouldered by the Archbishop of York (as representative of the clergy), his brother Edmund of Cornwall (as representative of the royalty), and Gilbert of Gloucester (to represent the baronage). With the country in safe hands, Edward saw little reason to hurry back and took his time doing so. On the way, he stopped in France to do homage to his feudal lord, the King of France – as Edward held land in France but was not the sovereign overlord of those lands, he was technically subordinate to Phillip III. He finally set foot in his realm on 2 August 1274 at Dover, almost two years after he had ascended the throne. His coronation was 15 days later on 17 August at Westminster, where he received the homage of his English barons and – importantly, as we will later see – that of Alexander III, King of Scotland.
Edward was well-suited for the crown for his attributes aside from his imposing physique (although he suffered from lisp and a drooping eye) and penchant for tournaments. He believed in a strong monarchy (as was the fashion in Europe, similar to the times of Richard II that we discussed two weeks ago), but within the limits of the law. One should not interpret this, however, to mean that Edward was concerned solely with a system of fair justice and righteous legal code – this king had a brilliant mind when it came to the law, and he knew all of the nooks and crannies of laws and statutes that he could technically invoke to his own advantage. Regardless of this caveat, though, Edward’s reign would be marked by its legal achievements and contributions to English law.
King Edward’s kingship began with a threefold policy encompassing good government, a sense of nationality, and (probably most appealing to him) absolute monarchy. The King succeeded in two out of the three foci. Administrative enactments made Edward’s government more efficient and effective, correcting some of the problems which plagued that of his predecessor. Edward’s promotion of nationality was effective as well, with his conquest of Wales and extensive campaigning against Scotland. We’ll discuss those two in more detail momentarily. The final point, absolute monarchy, was where Edward failed. Problematic finances and the English entanglement in French politics due to Edward’s landholdings across the Channel prevented him from being completely in charge. As we’ve discussed before, wars are terribly expensive undertakings and somebody’s got to pay for it. As wealthy as the English monarchy was (and is), it maintained insufficient funds to pay for large-scale, protracted conflicts. Enter Parliament. Parliaments had to be called in order to raise enough money to go on campaign, and it wasn’t as though the King had simply to announce a session in order to fill his coffers – these things took time, and naturally not every session resulted in the monarch getting exactly what they wanted. We mentioned Magna Carta in our last episode and its relevance to Richard’s reign; the Great Charter was even more significant to Edward, as it had been signed during the reign of his grandfather and was still on the minds of the English baronage.
The first years of Edward’s reign were spent on restoring order to English law and making appropriate changes to the royal financial situation – Edward surely didn’t want to run a country with red ink abounding in his ledgers. The first parliament of Edward’s reign was called in 1275 and resulted in a broad legislation now known as the First Statute of Westminster. One of the most important results of this was, as Bright’s History of England puts it, that it “improved tardy processes of law,” thus streamlining judicial proceedings and meting out justice more efficiently. Edward must have been delighted when the same parliament also granted him an export tax on wool and leather, and hence more money right into the King’s wallet. The next three or four years saw Edward taking advantage of the legal system as mentioned a few minutes ago by assessment of property ownership all across the land: Edward wanted to know who owned what and, more importantly, who owed him what for those lands. These assessments were enacted to discern the proper royal revenue according to the law. An interesting part of this process was the passing of the Statute of Mortmain in 1279, which forbade the transference of property to the Church without the king’s explicit consent. This is fascinating because it was put into place to close something of a loophole that was used at the time. In order to avoid the high legal costs associated with land ownership, it could be arranged to donate land to the Church and receive it back as a Church fief, thus escaping the necessity of paying taxes and fees to the government. Edward saw that this bit of trickery was costing him a lot of money and needed to put a stop to it; thus, the Statute of Mortmain.
Let’s backtrack a few years. In 1274 at Edward’s coronation, one of the men expected to do him homage was Llewelyn, the dominant prince of the Welsh regions. At this time, the Prince of Wales was not a title held by a member of the English royal family – Llewelyn was, theoretically, prince over Wales in his own self-claimed right, but nonetheless was still expected to come to Westminster and honor the new king as Edward’s subject. Llewelyn did not. Edward apparently gave this recalcitrant prince six chances to save face and do homage to his king; Llewelyn didn’t use a single one. Aside from being interpreted as extremely rude, this gave rise to much more serious suspicions; after all, why wouldn’t Llewelyn come to Westminster, either for the coronation or any of the other five times he was invited to do so? What could he possibly be planning?
Royal suspicions were added to by the fact that Llewelyn was married to Simon de Montfort’s daughter. While this was obviously a problem to Edward, who had defeated de Montfort a decade earlier at Evesham, it also presented an opportunity to “flush out” Llewelyn. The girl and her brother, Almeric, were captured in 1276 on their way to Wales. Llewelyn (understandably) demanded her release, although he did so as an independent prince – he made this demand of Edward as though the two were equals, something toward which Edward would naturally be disinclined. This was Edward’s much-needed excuse, and he rallied an army about him and set off for Wales, with Llewelyn’s brother David joining the royal cause. Apparently, there was no love lost in that family. Llewelyn had little choice but to surrender was allowed to keep only a fraction of his former realm. He was confined to Anglesey and a few baronies around Snowdon; in addition, he was charged 52,000 marks for fines, war costs, and tribute. By some accounts, though, these fines were returned to Llewelyn once he finally submitted to King Edward. Perhaps all was well? Of course not. It’s never that simple.
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David, his brother’s old enemy and ally of the King, switched sides within a few years’ time and joined his former nemesis. Together, the two attacked Hawardyn Castle, also besieging Rhuddlan and Flint. The war was back on. David fought in the north, while his newly reconciled brother defended southern Wales. Alas, it was a futile effort, and Llewelyn was killed on the River Wye. His head was sent to London and put on public display, crowned with ivy. His brother was soon to suffer the same fate. He surrendered to the English forces but was condemned to death anyway. David was executed in 1283. I’d like to read an excerpt from The Autobiography of England and give a contemporary account of the events:
Finally, Edward had rid himself of his Welsh enemies. To give his victory an even deeper foundation, Edward forced the Welsh into something of a second-class status, prohibiting them from bearing arms and forcing English institutions upon the fiercely proud people. To cap it all off, he built a famous circle of castles around the nation, some pictures of which you can see by going to the blog and clicking on the link I’ve provided there. Furthermore, Edward would make the Welsh (as Simon Schama put it) as English as could be – his son, the future Edward II, was born in 1301 at Caernarvon Castle and given the title Prince of Wales. The heir to the English throne was now head Welshman, and Edward’s subjugation was complete.
The Welsh weren’t the only ones to suffer from Edward’s malice. By the time the extremely expensive war was over, those who had financed it were simply out of money – the Jews with whom Edward had contracted loans had nothing left to give. Thinking they were apparently of no further use to him, Edward simple had a few executed and the rest exiled from England; thousands upon thousands of Jews were forced out of their homes and away from the king. Edward had just ethnically cleansed England.
Edward faced another challenge in 1290. The king of Scotland, Alexander III, was killed when he fell from his horse. His only living was his granddaughter Margaret, whose mother had married the King of Norway in 1285. Edward saw his opportunity: if he could marry his son to Margaret, the Maid of Norway, he would be king of Scotland by right of marriage – and thus, the crowns of England and Scotland would be united. Edward’s family could rule a united kingdom.
Unfortunately for Edward’s ambitions, this was not to be. Margaret died en route from Norway in September 1290, and Edward’s plan was ruined. Only a few weeks later, his beloved wife Eleanor of Castile died. The usually hard-hearted king was deeply distraught, so much so that he ordered the erection of 12 crosses, one at each site at which Eleanor’s funeral procession stopped on the way to London for her funeral. The most famous of these is the one at London’s Charing Cross Station (which is actually a 19th century replica of the original). Eleanor was buried on 17 December 1290 at Westminster Abbey. With his wife dead and his future hopes for Scottish rule, Edward must have been rather upset. Had the marriage taken place, a peaceful alliance could have been built between the two crowns. Violence, instead, would argue the question for centuries.
The King decided that he would make a judgment as to who would sit on the Scottish throne now that Margaret was dead. Many claimants came forward, but the two most significant were John Balliol and Robert Bruce. After deliberation it was decided that Balliol had the stronger claim on the throne and he was crowned on 30 November 1292. Edward gave his assent with the condition that Balliol do him homage. Even with a new king, however, Edward was bent on Scottish domination and repeatedly humiliated and undermined Balliol’s authority. This led eventually to Edward’s nightmare of 1295. Facing military action against France, Edward demanded Balliol’s military service in the fight against the enemy beyond the Channel. Balliol refused; in fact, the Scottish signed the Auld Alliance with France in support of the French king against Edward. Balliol held out for two years against Edward’s resulting invasion. He renounced his allegiance to Edward in 1296; in that same year, he was defeated and deposed by the English king, with the incredibly symbolic Stone of Scone being moved from Scotland to Westminster to be housed in a special chair built by Edward I to commemorate his defeat of the Scots. This chair can, in fact, still be seen today – it is the chair in which all English monarchs have been crowned since Edward, and the Stone is still kept beneath it. Having submitted to the man he had so long resisted, Balliol lived on the rest of his life under supervision in the Tower of London.
The man immortalized by Mel Gibson soon came to prominence (although in some different ways than the film Braveheart may have you believe). Regardless of the film’s inaccuracies, however, the war against the Scots raged on, and William Wallace proved to Edward that England was, in fact, not invincible at Stirling Bridge in 1297. The English were soundly beaten, and it appeared for the moment that Wallace would indeed put up great resistance to Edward. Unfortunately it was not to last, and Wallace was defeated at Falkirk in 1298. The Scottish wars continued on, Edward always trying to dominate his northern neighbor.Wallace was eventually executed in 1305, publicly humiliated in front of the English but made a martyr for the Scottish, a legend which lives today. We’ll go into greater detail about William Wallace in a later episode.
Wallace’s death in 1305 certainly wasn’t the end of Scottish resistance. The following year, Robert the Bruce, John Balliol’s old rival for the throne was crowned King of the Scots. Edward set out once again to put down an enemy, but never saw it happen. He died on 7 July 1307 at Burgh-on-Sands near Carlisle. One of his final requests was that his flesh be boiled away from his bones, which were to be carried wherever his army fought – that way, should the Scots be defeated, Edward would still be leading them. His tomb today bears the title “Hammer of the Scots,” although that is certainly inaccurate. A letter from the Scots to the pope in 1320 declared “We will never on any conditions submit to the dominion of the English.” Despite the modern situation, Edward made a good effort but was most definitely not the “Hammer of the Scots” he wanted to be remembered as.
That’s all for this episode of British History 101. If you’d like to get in touch with me, send questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Check out the website at BritishHistory101.com, where you’ll find a transcript of this and past episodes and links to a few sites related to this show. You can also reach me by snail mail through the address:

Michael Anthony
British History 101
P.O. Box 1177
Bloomington, IN 47408
United States
I want to send out a huge THANK YOU to listener Michele from California. I was delighted when checked the mail last week to find a copy of Those Damned Rebels: The American Revolution as seen through British Eyes waiting in the box for me. I can’t wait to read it and use it for the show! Thanks again, Michele!
Thank you so much for joining me tonight – I appreciate everyone’s time, whether you’re one of our listeners in Texas, Florida, Brazil, Zambia, Spain, Switzerland, Jakarta, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, or the Sceptred Isles themselves. I can’t tell you how much I always look forward to this chat with my friends from all around the globe. Thanks again for listening, and we’ll talk again soon.

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Edward I’s Welsh castles

Stirling Bridge

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Richard II

Thanks to Audible.com for supporting British History 101! Check them out today at audiblepodcast.com/british101

Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101, brought to you by Audible.com. Audible is the Internet’s leading provider in spoken-word entertainment, and you can get a FREE audiobook download of your choice when you sign up at audiblepodcast.com/british101. Check out Audible NOW and browse their extensive library when you logon at audiblepodcast.com/british101.
On 16 July 1377, a new king was crowned in Westminster Abbey. His father had been Edward, the Black Prince (of Wales), and his grandfather was King Edward III. The young man, born on 6 January 1367 in France, had been in line for the throne since his elder brother died in infancy; however, the time he would have to wait before becoming king was drastically reduced when his father died from a long, debilitating illness in 1376 (there is speculation that Edward had cancer). The boy was thus directly next in line for the crown upon the death of his grandfather, which came the following year on 21 June. The new king, Richard II, was but 10 years old. Legend has it that the exhausted little boy fell asleep during his own coronation and had to be carried from the Abbey. On the way out, one of his slippers fell off; history’s treatment of Richard has shown this to be an ill omen for the king’s future.
The stage was set for trouble from the get-go. Richard’s mother, Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent, loved her son but was unable to resist the power plays that accompanied a regency kingship. She was well-connected with the country’s elite, and being friends with the mother of a boy king presents a tempting chance to get what one wants. As Richard was 10 upon his accession, the country was ruled at first by Parliament and then by Richard’s uncles, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.. As long as Lancaster was around, everything was fine – he was a staunch supporter of the young king and apparently had no plans of usurpation or extensive control over the boy. However, as we will later see, when Lancaster left the country, things got rather more interesting.
Richard’s reign was one of great religious importance for the nation. John Wyclif and his apparently heretical teaching was gaining momentum in 1380, enough so to worry Church authorities and force the bishops to silence him. Although Wyclif was officially condemned, his teachings were taken out of England and spread to the Continent, where they would reach the likes of John Huss of Bohemia. It was John Wyclif who played a great role in sowing the seeds of the Protestant Reformation; unfortunately for his legacy, however, the events beginning with Martin Luther have come to eclipse Wyclif in many modern histories.
Richard received his first real test of kingly power when he was but 14 years old. In June 1381, English subjects were faced with taxes imposed on them to finance wars against the French and the Scottish; although they were unpopular, the taxes were tolerated. However, a tax collector was killed in Kent – supposedly – in retribution for attacking a girl whose father was a man named Wat Tyler. I have a great suspicion, however, that the hated tax man was probably killed out of anger over the tax itself, with the attack on Tyler’s daughter being a later-added justification. Either way, this sparked a conflagration led by a “Great Society” rumoured to have been plotting for months to do something about the taxes; this conflagration would later come to be known as the Peasants’ Revolt. An armed band of now-rebels marched off from Kent, stopping in Rochester and Maidstone to destroy government records. This is a telling set of events: these men knew precisely what they were doing, as destroying records made it impossible to accurately collect any sort of taxes or even know who to look for in a given town. Although many of them were illiterate, the rebels knew what importance the rolls they destroyed had. In Maidstone, the band took Wat Tyler, the man whose daughter had apparently been attacked by the tax collecter, as their leader. Off they were for London.
Unfortunately for those on rebels’ list of enemies, several high officials of London let them in or simply did nothing to stop them – another clue from which we should learn, as this exposes the popularity of the sentiment borne to extremes by the peasants. Upon entering the city, chaos was released. Two members of the Royal Council, Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor Simon Sudbury and Treasurer Sir Robert Hales were dragged to the Tower and beheaded. The Savoy palace of John of Gaunt was ransacked; although the man ruling in Richard’s stead was apparently hated, it is interesting to note that the rebels felt themselves to still be totally loyal to the king himself. Never was Richard a target of their malice. The king invited them to a parley at Smithfield, just outside the city proper; here, the rebels made several demands: 1) the repeal of oppressive taxes 2) the abolition of villeinage 3) the division of Church property. During the discussion between King Richard and the rebel leader Wat Tyler in the middle of the field, a scuffle broke out, although today there are few who claim to know exactly why. In any case, the Mayor of London, William Walworth, thought Wat Tyler had made a threat against the king; at this, Walworth rode out and struck Tyler down. Several other of the King’s men followed suit, and soon Tyler was dead where he lay. The band of peasants prepared to fight, but young Richard, again we recall he was only 14 years old, rode out to meet them where he famously declared “I shall be your captain. You shall have from me all you seek. Only follow me to the fields outside.” The peasants believed him. For the moment, the tide had turned, and the rebels began to make their way home – and were harassed and attacked the entire way by royal soldiers.
Although Richard had calmed the peasants at Smithfield after they had seen their leader slain, the Revolt still carried on violently throughout the country. Riots sprung up all over the country, but government resistance was more prepared this time round – no more unexpected burning of local records by fed-up peasants. Orders were sent from London commanding local authorities to maintain order and mete out justice to insurgents. All in all, about 150 rebels were actually executed; a general amnesty was extended in 1382. Much to Richard’s advantage, nothing really changed. In fact, he annulled the promise he had given to those gathered at Smithfield, taking back his guarantee and giving another memorable quote: “Villiens ye be, and villiens ye shall remain.” Concluding our discussion of the Peasants’ Revolt, it is interesting (and a bit ironic) that very few of the men who marched on London were actually peasants – most were wealthy “middle class” (although what we know today as the middle class didn’t really exist yet) landowners upset by the heavy taxes being imposed on them and resentful of the government’s intrustion on their own fortunes.
1382 saw the young king marry Anne of Bohemia, the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV at Westminster Abbey. The marriage was destined to produce no children, but Richard was rather taken with Anne and loved her dearly. We shall see in a few minutes just how much Richard loved his wife and why she played an interesting role in the relationship between Richard and the country’s elite.
One of the defining characteristics of Richard’s reign was the division that split his court into two. The king gathered about himself a circle of supporters who remained faithful to him; likewise, another group sprung up in direct opposition to the king’s initiatives. The main players behind the king were his eventual chancellor Michael de la Pole, Chief Justice Tresilian, Archbishop of York Alexander Neville, and the young king’s tutor Simon Burley. Leading this pro-crown faction was the king’s chamberlain, Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and such were the people Richard found himself surrounded by at the age of twenty when he decided he would be take a more direct role in the Royal Council – his uncle Lancaster, and anyone else with official power, would have to consult Richard more closely than in previous years. On the other side of the coin, the so-called Lords Appellant made it clear that they were the king’s men in name only – they would offer Richard none of the loyality born him by his supporters. This group was made up of Richard’s uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, Thomas Arundel, Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, Thomas Mowbray, earl of Nottingham, and Henry Bolingbroke, who was John of Gaunt’s own son and thus Richard’s cousin. The Lords Appellant were headed up by Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel.
The Lords Appellant were infuriated when in 1386 Richard made Robert de Vere the duke of Ireland. This appointment was such a contentious event because Ireland was out of Parliament’s control – Richard now had his great ally in charge of the Emerald Isle, and there was little legal recourse that the Lords Appellant could pursue. Ireland was an enormous token of power for Richard, and this wasn’t the last time it would play a substantial role in the reign of the Black Prince’s son.
The Lords Appellant found their opportunity for revenge when John of Gaunt left the country to pursue a claim he had laid upon the throne of Castile. With Richard’s guardian out of the country, the Lords pressured the king to get rid of his trusted advisors. Richard withdrew to consult his allies, and with the king out of the country the Lords Appellant were able to exert even more power over Parliament and effectively ruled the country. When Richard made his bid to return to London and reassert his royal authority, the attempt did not go over as well as he would have liked: Robert de Vere and Michael de la Pole were able to escape the wrath of the Lords Appellant, but Simon Burley and Chief Justice Tresilian did not fair as well and were executed. All in all, though, things could have been worse for the still-young king: the older Lords Appellant wanted to execute him as well, but their younger colleagues restrained him. Even if they had no qualms murdering the man, they knew the time was not right to rid the country of the king, and they lacked the support that would have been necessary to survive after such an act. They were probably pushing their luck with what they had already done, anyway. For the time being, the Lords Appellant had gotten what they wanted and held a firm hand on England’s government.
We’ve got some excited history coming up, but before we do let’s take a small break for tea. While you’re making your favorite cuppa, I’d like to thank Audible.com for sponsoring today’s show. Audible.com is the leading provider in spoken word entertainment and has over 35,000 titles to choose from to be downloaded and played back anywhere — just like British History 101! Logon to Audiblepodcast.com/british101 to get a FREE Audiobook download of your choice when you sign up. I’ve mentioned in earlier episodes how I worked in a factory one summer doing a rather monotonous task over and over for eight hours a day. Audiobooks were a wonderful way to pass the time, and Audible made it incredibly easy to find the ones I wanted and download them. Again go to audiblepodast.com/britishhistory101 for your free audiobook – they’re adding more all the time and I know you’ll find something you like there.
Now then. Back to the history. During a session with his Council in 1389, Richard rather drily asked to be told how old he was. Upon a councillor’s answer that the king was 23, Richard announced that he had officially come of age. He was taking control of the country out of the hands of the Council and firmly placing it in his own. Finally, the man who had become ruler of England at the age of ten was truly the King. He had decided that he would wear the crown with much more than symbolic meaning. England was now Richard’s in name and in reality. This went over well with the English people, who were proud of their young, vigorous, and strong leader. Richard must have enjoyed the good PR.
What’s surprising about this assumption of power is the relative lack of action taken against the Lords Appelant. Richard appeared to have simply let things go in favor of a relative calm. John of Gaunt returned to England in October 1389 and his son, one of the Lords Appellant, was reconciled with the king. Things appeared to be going well; however, Churchill’s history of Richard suggests that perhaps he was taking his time to slowly plot his own revenge. Let’s see what happened for the next few years.
Richard apparently tolerated the men who had formerly plotted against him: as we just said, his uncle had reconciled him to his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, and Arundel and Gloucester were something of a necessary evil – Richard definitely didn’t like them, but put up with them anyway. The king did get to enjoy a few occasions of anger with the men, though: when his beloved wife Anne died in 1394, Arundel was late to her funeral. Richard was reportedly so infuriated that he struck Arundel across the face with a rod – it must have felt good to beat the man who had once wanted the king dead. However, one must take into account the sadness Richard felt at the time. Was his outburst due to hatred of Arundel or anger that someone was late to his wife’s funeral, period? After all, this was the king who burned down his queen’s palace at Sheen so as to never be reminded of the joy he felt while she was alive.
The Lords Appellant should have felt a bit of anxiety when Richard left for Ireland in 1394. We said a few minutes ago that Richard’s control of Ireland was a scary thing for Parliament to deal with – Ireland was a huge resource to the king, and his 1394 expedition was made with the intent of raising an army for himself. The King was successful, and so another piece fell into the plan that Churchill thought Richard was setting up for his eventual glorious comeback. The evidence is clear that Richard wanted this army for personal objectives rather than those of the country at large. Wars waged in the name of the country were (as they are now) expensive affairs, and all that money had to come from somewhere. A king would have to approach Parliament to get the necessary money for a war, and Richard did not want to be under Parliament’s thumb, so to speak, with this burden. This attitude was part of why Richard made peace with France in 1396, a deal in which Richard also got another wife. He married 7 year old Isabella, the daughter of Charles VI of France. This marriage would produce no heir, either, a problem that would drastically change the line of English kings in just a few years. In addition, a secret clause was part of the Peace of France – should the English lords rebel again, Charles would come to the aid of Richard. The king was building up more and more insurance for his own power.
At this point, in the mid-1390s, powerful King Richard was still enjoying wide popularity – the country was doing well, and there was no war with France. The people felt that their king was taking care of them, and this was entirely justified. Richard used this time to continue building a strong foundation on which to stand, continuing to build up a circle of supporters around him at court and, in all likeliehood, making sure that members of Parliament would support him, as well. By now, Richard was more powerful than even William the Conqueror had been in the 11th century. He was on top of the world.
It was from this high post that Richard came swooping down upon his old enemies. In 1397 Richard summoned the Esates of the Realm, calling the nobility to Westminster. Here, the Lords Appellant found a nasty surprise waiting for them. Thomas Arundel was declared a traitor to the crown and his shoulders were summarily relieved of his head. Warwick was exiled to the Isle of Man, and the Duke of Gloucester was exiled to Calais. He was murdered there, anyway – probably on the orders of the king. Parliament, by now packed with the King’s men, made sure all of this was legal. Finally, Richard had gotten the revenge he had waited so long for. The King reigned supreme, but his first taste of blood had left him thirsty for more. His wrath was unsatisfied.
September 1398 was a momentous year in English history. Two of the former Lords Appellant, Thomas Mowbray and Henry Bolingbroke, were discussing the recent near-tyrannical attitude of the king: it seems that a year after his revenge, Richard was looking for anyone to challenge him so he could show off just how powerful he was. Mowbray made the comment that he and Bolingbroke would probably be next, seeing as how they had formerly set themselves against the king. Henry, who fancied himself Richard’s savior after having restrained the older Lords Appellant, accused Mowbray of treason – how dare he speak so about the king! The two argued for a bit, but coming to no conclusion they decided that a duel would settle the matter. They would fight it out between themselves.
The arranged duel was an exciting event for the English people – think of it as a high-profile boxing match or football tournament today, with lots of important people and even the king himself in attendance. One can only guess at their disappointment when, just before the duel was to begin, Richard stood and demanded silence. He proclaimed that the duel was not to take place – he would be the arbiter of this disagreement, and his sentence was harsh. Thomas Mowbray was exiled for the rest of his life. Henry Bolingbroke got off comparatively easier, and had only to leave the realm for ten years.
This was the height of King Richard II’s power. He began to flaunt his power more and more, and it became clear that he was an unopposed despot as he tramped (expensively) about the country, enjoying his wealth and making sure everyone knew that it was he who was in charge in England. The king once adored for his strong leadership was now feared as an abusive tyrant. He showed his face at its cruelest in February 1399 when John of Gaunt died and all of the former guardian of Richard’s lands passed to his son, Henry Bolingbroke. Richard didn’t much fancy this and simply seized the property – in effect, he disinherited Henry of the land that was rightfully his. Aside from being a bold and pompous move, this had deeply resonating ramifications for Englishmen as a whole and English landowners in particular – if the king could take such a highly placed noble’s property, what stopped him from taking that belonging to men lower down the totem pole? Not much, apparently, since the law didn’t stop him from taking Henry’s rightful property. Richard’s Plantagenet arrogance was now on display for all to see. To put a bit of icing on the cake, Richard wanted to make sure Henry would never be able to do anything about his newfound plight – Bolingbroke’s ten year exile was lengthened to life.
May 1399 saw Richard off to Ireland to raise another army: he had effectively unlimited power and could probably just take some money from someone should he run out, so why not go and recruit a physical force of men to enforce his will? Unfortunately for England, Richard left behind a country ripe for trouble – his administration was in tatters due to his iron grasp on the reins of power, the army was in no fighting shape (hence another reason for his Irish jaunt), and his people hated him. The now-exiled-for-life Henry Bolingbroke saw his chance and decided to shorten his Continental vacation. On 4 July, Henry landed at Yorkshire. He was back to take what was rightfully his, and in all likelihood this is all he wanted: his land had been taken from him, and he wanted it back. English landowners, worried that they would suffer the same disinheritance Henry had, rallied to the exiled noble and vowed their support. Henry moved south through the country, gathering more and more supporters as he went. As more and more joined Henry’s caused, fewer and fewer were necessarily left to support the king. Besides, with Richard off in Ireland and Henry marching down the road with a swelling army behind him, who wouldn’t be afraid to stand up for the rightful, though despotic, king?
By the time Richard decided to come back on 27 July, he found virtually no support. He brought few troops with him from Ireland, and nearly everyone he previous could have counted on was now under the banner of Henry Bolingbroke. The king didn’t last long – less than a month, in fact. Henry saw what a powerful position he was in; with the support he had garnered, he knew he didn’t have to stop at asking for his property back. He demanded Richard’s submission to him, which he received the next month. King Richard II submitted to one of his own nobles on 19 August 1399 at Flint Castle. More and more pressure was applied to Richard, and he caved on the 29th of September – King Richard II became simply Richard. The crown would pass to Henry.
The only problem Henry had to solve was the small issue of legitimacy. He had little trouble, however; the direct heir to the throne, Edmund Mortimer, was only 8. Parliament, which by now hated Richard, had little difficulty putting Henry in Edmund’s place and making him the legal heir to the crown. It was thus that the English line of kings continued in King Henry IV, with Richard left to die of starvation at Pontefract Castle on 14 February 1400. He was buried at Kings Langley but was later transferred to Westminster Abbey in 1413 on the orders of Henry V.
Richard II was a capable monarch but was, unfortunately, corrupted by the power he gained. To quote a cliché, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this was exactly what happened to Richard. Setting aside the interest of an abdication, Richard’s reign is fascinating for other reasons, too. This was an age of high culture and literary merit – Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales were being written here (and perhaps we can discuss old Geoffrey in a later episode). His reign was also one of great pomp and majesty. Richard was, in official circumstances, a lofty ruler and set himself high above those around him. During meals, anyone upon whom Richard’s eyes fell was required to fall to their knee in submission. This was fashionable among European monarchies, and Richard was not one to be left behind. A powerful monarch was a way to control rebellious barons – let us remember that not 200 years had passed since John’s ordeal at Runnymede. Interestingly, though, was Richard’s apparent casualness in his non-official capacity. His closest cohorts were non-nobles (or at most very minor nobility). He enjoyed simply “hanging out,” with his friends, as it were, and delighted at informal readings of books in his relatively common company. From what I gather, Richard was probably a pretty likeably guy until a certain point. Perhaps if the Lords Appellant had never made their grab for power, Richard would have fared more favorably in the annals of history.
That’s all for this episode of British History 101. If you would, please bear with me for a few minutes, as I have a few announcements I’d like to make regarding the show. First off, I am very excited to introduce a new closing piece for British History 101. Simon Mulligan, who you have heard before on the show, has generously recorded a piece of music I have long sought after to be used as the outro to the show. Tonight, I’m going to play it in its entirety at the end for your enjoyment, and from then on it will be used as I close each show. Thank you again, Mr. Mulligan – your contribution is truly appreciated and really helps make British History 101 a fun show. Second, I want to ask everyone to check out the blog at britishhistory101.com – in addition to posting the text of each show there, I want it to become a place where I can interact with listeners and post material on a regular basis between actual episodes of the show. Some of the feedback I have received about the show indicates that I spend a bit too much time discussing non-historical matters, and I’ve taken that into consideration. Therefore, check the blog every few days and stay thoroughly up-to-date with British History 101. I’ll post things relating directly to the show and also to British history or Britain in general. I’m not just an historian – I’m a committed Anglophile, so there’s no telling what you’ll find there! I’ve also added a section called “Support British History 101.” This is for those of you who would like to show your support for the show; as the show is not part of a business and as such does not exist unto itself but merely as an extension of me, I can’t get non-profit or incorporated status and offer the opportunity for tax-deductible donations. What I have put up, however, is a link to the show’s Amazon wishlist. If you are so inclined, there are several things there that I could use to directly help the show and some things that are just of general interest to me. Most are books about British history, but there are also books about my other interests and various other items. I have absolutely no expectations from this list; if I never receive anything, the show will not decrease in quality whatsoever. It is entirely optional and it’s there only for those of you who may want to show your support and contribute to the show. I’m in the midst of setting up a PO box and will let you know when it’s available for mailing. I want to send an enormous thank you out to Teri and dog Buster, who very generously gave me an item from my wish list already, before this episode has even hit the proverbial airwaves! Thanks so very much Teri and Buster! Lastly, I’ve recently become part of the Twitter social network and have started to follow a few people; if there’s anyone out there who also enjoys being a part of Twitter and wants to follow my daily (or so) updates, my Twitter username is maskaggs – m a s k a g g s. I’d love for British History 101 to be a part of that network.
That’s it for my rambling. Stay tuned, both to the podcast and the blog, and we’ll talk again soon. Without further ado, it is my pleasure to present to you “Rule Britannia,” performed exclusively for British History 101 by award-winning Sony recording artist Simon Mulligan.

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George III

Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101, brought to you by Audible.com, the internet’s leading provider of spoken-word entertainment. Get a free audiobook download of your choice when you sign up today at http://www.audiblepodcast.com/british101.
George II’s son, Frederick Louis Prince of Wales, died on 31 March 1751. His father was still alive, and so the royal succession passed to Frederick’s 12 year old son, George William Frederick.
George was born on 4 June 1738 in Norfolk House, London, to his father Frederick and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. He was born prematurely and was thus baptized immediately; a public baptism was held a month later, with King Frederick I of Sweden, Duke Frederick III of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, and Queen Sophia Dorothea of Prussia as his godparents. His relationship to his grandfather, King George II, was almost non-existent until 1751 as George II hated his son Frederick and thus was uninterested in his grandchildren by that man. However, upon his father’s death, little George became much more interesting to his grandfather, who created him Prince of Wales. George II also wanted to give his grandson grand rooms at St. James’s Palace, the principal residence of the Hanoverian kings, but the late Frederick’s wife protested – she distrusted her father in law and exercised considerable control over her young son, a fact that would plague George for years.
There are questionable records that George married a young lady by the name of Hannah Lightfoot, the daughter of a shoemaker, in 1757 or 1759. The evidence of this is dubious at best, as is the purported fact that the marriage bore three children. George’s marital history really begins with Lady Sarah Lennox, the granddaughter of King Charles II and his mistress the Duchess of Portsmouth, for whom George more or less fell royal head over royal heels. This presented a problem, however: Lady Lennox was a British subject, and not a royal – most certainly, said his advisors, below the dignity of the future king.
Upon the death of George II on 25 October 1760 (supposedly from a heart attack suffered whilst enthroned upon the lavatory), the young man of only 22 years became George III, By the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, Prince-Elector of Hannover, Duke of Brunswick. This accession to the throne intensified the search for a wife for the now-King of Great Britain after the dismissal of George’s desire to wed Lady Lennox. Among the available German princesses that the king’s “wife committee,” for lack of a better term, was Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who was duly married to George on 8 September 1761 – even though he had technically become king almost a year earlier, George’s coronation was delayed so as to be able to hold a join coronation for him and his wife, who he never even saw until their wedding day.
The dual coronation was held at Westminster Abbey on 21 September 1761, and thus King George III and Queen Charlotte officially became the couple at the head of the royal family. The marriage would see the births of an incredible 15 children, 13 of whom would survive to adulthood. It was for this queen that Queen’s House was first purchased, and this residence was eventually expanded into what we know today as Buckingham Palace.
The dominance we earlier discussed which George’s mother lorded over him was evident in George III’s first prime minister, John Stuart Earl of Bute, an old friend of Princess Augusta. Bute was a staunch royalist, and George more or less got his way on matters which he motivated Bute to push through Parliament. This arrangement was short lived, however, as Bute was hated by many in Parliament for several reasons, including his lack of administrative skills and apparent acceptance of bribes from the French to secure the Peace of Paris, ending the Seven Years’ War (or as I was taught in elementary school, the French and Indian War) and resigned in 1763. Several other prime ministers held Bute’s old post before another notable one came along – Frederick, Lord North, in 1770.
Lord North has been regarded as one of Britain’s worst prime ministers, and it is not insignificant that his premiership coincided with a relatively important event in the history of both the United States and the United Kingdom – the Revolutionary War, or as many Brits are liable to call it the American War for Independence. Along with Captain Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific and the first appearance of Encyclopedia Britannica, North’s reign also saw the passing of the Stamp Act in 1765, the Boston Tea Party in 1773, and Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, and the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. The rebellion against legislation passed by Parliament to control the American colonies, and was an embarrassment to both North and the king. The only good to come out of the situation was that the king actually got to keep his job – North was not so lucky, and resigned in 1782.
I’d like to remind everyone listening that British History 101 is sponsored by Audible.com, the leading provider of spoken-word entertainment on the internet. They have over 35,000 titles to browse and each of them can be downloaded and listened to anywhere, just like British History 101. Go to audiblepodcast.com/british101 to get a free audiobook download of your choice when you sign up today. I’d personally like to recommend volume 7 of Christopher Lee’s series This Sceptred Isle. In this volume, Lee covers the events happening from 1760 to 1792, including the American revolution, the French revolution, and even more details of the life and reign of George III. You can download it for free by logging on to http://www.audiblepodcast.com/british101.
The prime minister to follow Lord North was William Pitt the Younger, an able Prime Minister but sometimes at odds with the king. The two especially clashed over the issue of the Catholic Emancipation, a process of returning rights and repealing restrictions against Roman Catholic Britons. George, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, was dead set against this; Pitt was in favour of the Emancipation. George III’s opposition to the Emancipation eventually led to Pitt’s resignation in 1801 – but not before he passed the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland, effective 1 January 1801. The United States may have been lost, but Ireland was gained. On a side note, it was also on this first day of 1801 that George dropped one of the titles that the line of kings had held since 1340 – king of France.
I just mentioned George’s role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England; whilst writing this show, that made me think of another “glitch”, if you would, in British history. One of the titles officially held by British monarchs is “Defender of the Faith”; the interesting thing about this is that Defender of the Faith, or its Latin original Defensor Fidei (and I would ask all Classical Latin speakers to pardon my pronunciation, as I hail from the Ecclesiastical school of the language) or its Latin original Defensor Fidei, was granted by Pope Leo X to Henry VIII in 1521 for Henry’s Defense of the Seven Sacraments entitled Assertio Septum Sacramentorum in response to the Protestant Reformation. I find it fascinating to see that this title, granted by the Pope to a thoroughly Catholic king, is still used today by a decidedly non-Catholic monarch.
If there is anything that George III is known for besides losing the American colonies, it is that he apparently went mad. He suffered an attack of his mysterious illness in 1788 and went on a rampage against his son, the Prince of Wales, and tried to smash his head against the wall. He had to be restrained in a strait jacket and then in an iron chair so that doctors could examine the obviously ill king. Several remedies were applied in response to this September 1788 attack, including liberally covering the king in Spanish Fly and mustard, in the hopes that the resulting wounds would draw out whatever sickness was ailing the king. In all likelihood this did nothing to help, but either way the king had recovered by April of 1789 and was able to resume his duties as king (and I will note in passing just in time to witness the violent outburst of the French Revolution in July 1789).
George’s mental ailment reared its head again in 1801 and 1804, and a final attack completely incapacitated him in 1810. An Act of Regency was quickly passed through Parliament, and his son became effective ruler of the kingdom until George III’s death in 1820, largely forgotten and neglected in Windsor Castle, where he is buried.
George’s reign was, without doubt, one of the most eventful of British history. The king, the first Hanoverian to be born and raised in Britain and to speak English as his primary language, had seen the development of the steam engine, an assassination attempt in 1786, the French Revolution, the publishing of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, another assassination attempt in 1800, the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars, Nelson’s heroic victory at Trafalgar, the publication of Pride and Prejudice, and Napoleon’s legendary defeat at Waterloo. At the time of his death, he was judged insane; since then, medicine has determined the George probably suffered from a condition called porphyria, an inherited disease that causes symptoms similar to mental insanity. Poor George’s genes simply knocked him off the throne.
That’s all for this episode of British History 101. A transcript of this and past episodes of this podcast is available at BritishHistory101.com. Send questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. I’d like to thank the sponsors of British History 101, kindly supported by the musical contributions of both John Hawksley of Hawksley.net/mp3 and Sony Recording Artist Simon Mulligan at simonmulligan.com, and your number one source for audiobooks on the Internet, Audible, at audiblepodcast.com/british101. Thank you so very much for listening tonight, and have a wonderful weekend. We’ll talk again soon.

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Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101.
Today’s episode will be a bit more brief than usual, due to the fact that it is being produced during a rather hectic week with many projects to be done towards the beginning of the week. I thought it better to produce a shorter podcast of high quality rather than a longer podcast with a noticeable sacrifice in quality, and so here we are.
In past episodes of British History 101, we have learned about several orders of chivalry – the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Thistle, and the Order of St. Patrick. Today we will learn about a fourth order, the Order of the Bath.
In the Middle Ages, it was customary for a man soon to be made a knight to take a ritual bath, a sign of spiritual purification and a harkening back to the ceremony of baptism at the beginning of the man’s life. He would then spend the night in a chapel, keeping prayerful vigil, until dawn. He would then make confession and hear Mass before presenting himself before the king once it was fully daylight. This audience with the king culminated with the accolade, or as we commonly see it referred to now the act of “dubbing” the knight by striking him on the neck with a hand or a sword. From the evidence we have of this elaborate ceremony taking place in the 12th century to the coronation of Charles II in 1661, knights who were created at the end of this overnight process were known simply as Knights of the Bath, for obvious reasons.
On 18 May 1725, George I, By the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, Prince-Elector of Hannover, Duke of Brunswick, officially founded the The Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath (although the word “military” has since been removed, for reasons we shall discuss shortly). It is usually thought that George I was convinced to found the order by his Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, who wanted a way to reward his political allies and those from whom he sought political support. At its creation, the Order consisted of the Sovereign, a Prince of the blood Royal as Principal Knight, a Great Master and thirty-five Knights Companion. What is extremely interesting about this order is that although it recalls the time when knights were ritually bathed before being “dubbed”, that medieval ceremony has never been used to create knights since the Order was officially established in 1725; thus, the original members of the Order were simply installed on 17 June 1725 in the Order’s newly designated chapel, the Lady Chapel of Henry VII in Westminster Abbey.
Although never used, the medieval rituals of bathing and prayerful vigil remained in the Order’s statutes until 1815; at this point, the end of the Napoleonic Wars, they were formally abolished. It was also at this point that the Prince Regent, later to be crowned George IV, expanded the Order into two divisions, military and civil. He also drastically increased the number of knights allowed into the Order; this caused no small amount of controversy, as many people (perhaps justifiably so) felt this devalued the honor of membership in the Order. This split into two divisions also produced three ranks of knighthood within the Order – Knight Grand Cross, Knight Commander, and Companion. After various revisions of the Order’s statutes which we will not discuss here (due to the complexity of each change and the relatively monotonous nature of reading off a list of dates), The Most Honourable Order of the Bath now accommodates 120 Knights (or Dames, since 1971) Grand Cross, 355 Knights or Dames Commander, and 1,925 Companions.
As we have discussed with the other orders of chivalry, members of the Order of the Bath are entitled to several nominal attachments; specifically, Knights and Dames Grand Cross and Commander are allowed to place “Sir” or “Dame” before their names and GCB, KCB, or DCB after. Companions of the Order of the Bath are not entitled to a prefix, but can use CB after their names.
Knights and Dames of the Order are still installed in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey; this ceremony, which takes place every four years, is attended by the Great Master of the Order (the Prince of Wales) at every installation and attended by the sovereign of the order (Her Majesty the Queen) at every alternate installation. The last such ceremony was in 2006, and the Queen was in attendance; therefore, there will be another installation in 2010, and the Queen will appear again in 2014. I have every confidence that Elizabeth will still be Sovereign then – even as an American I say Vivat Regina!
In the Chapel, each Knight or Dame Grand Cross is assigned his or her own stall in the choir. However, due to the limited number of stalls available it can take years, approaching even decades, for a person honored with the Grand Cross to actually get their stall. At the pinnacle of a knight’s stall is his helm, topped by his crest; for Dames Grand Cross, being women and therefore without crests, the coronet appropriate to her rank is used. A banner with the knight’s coat of arms hangs over the stall, and a brass nameplate is affixed to the back of the stall itself. Upon the death of a knight or dame, all the heraldic devices removed, but the name plate remains.
Knights of the Bath are provided with a considerable array of vestments and regalia; however, when I looked at the usually best source of this information, which (believe it or not) is actually Wikipedia, I was absolutely overwhelmed with the variations and regulations of the Order’s garb. Therefore, I have taken the high road, as it were, and copy and pasted the section from Wikipedia about said garb; I hope you will forgive me the cop-out, but I believe explaining it all would not be worth the time it would take to explore the different situations in which certain things are worn based on rank and position. I would strongly encourage you to visit the blog so you can see for yourself the interesting garments of knights of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath! Of course, all credit to Wikipedia and the sources cited therein.

Vestments and accoutrements
Members of the Order wear elaborate costumes on important occasions (such as its quadrennial installation ceremonies and coronations), which vary by rank:
• The mantle, worn only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross, is made of crimson satin lined with white taffeta. On the left side is a representation of the star (see below). The mantle is bound with two large tassels.[81]
• The hat, worn only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross and Knights and Dames Commanders, is made of black velvet; it includes an upright plume of feathers.[82]
• The collar, worn only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross, is made of gold and weighs 30 troy ounces (933 g). It consists of depictions of nine imperial crowns and eight sets of flowers (roses for England, thistles for Scotland and shamrocks for Ireland), connected by seventeen silver knots.[81]
On lesser occasions, simpler insignia are used:
• The star is used only by Knights and Dames Grand Cross and Knights and Dames Commanders. Its style varies by rank and division; it is worn pinned to the left breast:
o The star for military Knights and Dames Grand Cross consists of a Maltese Cross on top of an eight-pointed silver star; the star for military Knights and Dames Commander is an eight-pointed silver cross pattée. Each bears in the centre three crowns surrounded by a red ring bearing the motto of the Order in gold letters. The circle is flanked by two laurel branches and is above a scroll bearing the words Ich dien (older German for "I serve") in gold letters.[81]
o The star for civil Knights and Dames Grand Cross consists of an eight-pointed silver star, without the Maltese cross; the star for civil Knights and Dames Commanders is an eight-pointed silver cross pattée. The design of each is the same as the design of the military stars, except that the laurel branches and the words Ich dien are excluded.[81]

The badge varies in design, size and manner of wearing by rank and division. The Knight and Dame Grand Cross' badge is larger than the Knight and Dame Commander's badge, which is in turn larger than the Companion's badge;[83] however, these are all suspended on a crimson ribbon. Knights and Dames Grand Cross wear the badge on a riband or sash, passing from the right shoulder to the left hip.[81] Knights Commanders and male Companions wear the badge from a ribbon worn around the neck. Dames Commanders and female Companions wear the badge from a bow on the left side:
o The military badge is a gold Maltese Cross of eight points, enamelled in white. Each point of the cross is decorated by a small gold ball; each angle has a small figure of a lion. The centre of the cross bears three crowns on the obverse side, and a rose, a thistle and a shamrock, emanating from a sceptre on the reverse side. Both emblems are surrounded by a red circular ring bearing the motto of the Order, which are in turn flanked by two laurel branches, above a scroll bearing the words Ich dien in gold letters.[81]
o The civil badge is a plain gold oval, bearing three crowns on the obverse side, and a rose, a thistle and a shamrock, emanating from a sceptre on the reverse side; both emblems are surrounded by a ring bearing the motto of the Order.[81]
On certain "collar days" designated by the Sovereign, members attending formal events may wear the Order's collar over their military uniform or eveningwear. When collars are worn (either on collar days or on formal occasions such as coronations), the badge is suspended from the collar.[81]
The collars and badges of Knights and Dames Grand Cross are returned to the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood upon the decease of their owners. All other insignia may be retained by their owners.[81]

Tonight I am very pleased to introduce a new artist to the musical tone of British History 101. Sony Recording Artist Simon Mulligan has very graciously offered me the license to use his performances as the closing theme of our show. What we will be using for the next few weeks is the piece you hear playing right now, called Promenade 5; I really enjoy it and think it fits the tone of our show very well. However, Mr. Mulligan has yet more in the works for British History 101, and I am very excited for what he is currently working on and can’t wait to share it with you. Thank you, Mr. Mulligan, from myself and all the listeners of British History 101.
That’s all for our show tonight; a brief one, to be sure, but I hope it was an enjoyable bite of history nonetheless! Send questions, comments, rants, and raves to British History 101. Our new music tonight is Promenade 5, performed by Simon Mulligan. Thank you for joining me again this week; for those of you in the United States, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, and we will meet again soon!

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J.R.R Tolkien Part II

Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. Tonight, we will continue our look into the life and works of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Let’s pick right up where we left off last week, when Tolkien wrote the famous words “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
Let us remember that Tolkien spent most of his time during 1917-1918 in hospital, recuperating from the trench fever he had gotten in France. He passed the time by writing what we know now as The Silmarillion, and the large amount of time he spent writing this unexpectedly influenced his work that had begun with a scribble on a blank exam booklet page. Tolkien originally had no intention of connecting that scribble, which grew into his book The Hobbit, with anything he had already written in The Silmarillion. However, elements from his earlier work began showing up in The Hobbit. It became clear as the story developed that the worlds in which The Hobbit and The Silmarillion took place were one and the same; however, The Silmarillion took place long before The Hobbit.
It probably would have been possible to publish The Hobbit much earlier than actually happened; however, with this book Tolkien exhibited his characteristic streaks of perfectionism, self-dissatisfaction with his work, and outright laziness. He had technically completed the story in the mid-thirties, wrapping up the tale in story-telling sessions with his children. Getting the thing written was another matter entirely, and Tolkien slowed down considerably after writing the death of one particular character (I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it, but for those of you who have – I am referring to he who is felled by the one flaw in his armor). What did exist of the story in physical form was seen by very few people outside the family; incidentally, one of those people was a woman named Susan Dagnall, an employee of the London publishing house Allen & Unwin. The book deeply impressed her, and she asked Tolkien to complete and submit it for publication in 1937.
What happened next is one of those little events in history that must have seemed insignificant at the time but truly changed the lives of countless people later on. The head of the publishing firm, Stanley Unwin, was almost prepared to publish the book but decided to let his nine year old son, Rayner, read it first for review. Luckily for the world of literature, little Rayner loved the story, and so the very first edition of The Hobbit, featuring black-and-white illustrations by Tolkien himself, was made public to the world in 1937.The first printing of the tale sold out in three months – an incredible feat, especially at that time.
The enormous success of The Hobbit led Allen & Unwin to request a sequel to The Hobbit; perceiving a chance to finally complete and publish The Silmarillion, Tolkien submitted it to the firm. The Silmarillion, however, was rejected – readers, and thus the firm – wanted more stories about hobbits like Bilbo Baggins. This was how Tolkien began his next book, tentatively titled The New Hobbit. Tolkien admittedly had little idea of where he wanted to go with the book, aside from the fact that Gollum’s ring would play a substantial role; Frodo was originally called Bingo, and Strider was Trotter. By mid-summer 1938, his next story had gained considerable momentum, and the true power of Gollum’s ring was becoming more and more central to the story. It was thus that The Lord of the Rings was born.
Tolkien’s writing habits would plague the work done on The Lord of the Rings; the length of it, continuity of language and geography with his other writings on Middle-Earth, the interruptions everyone had to deal with during World War II, and his tendency to write and rewrite all worked together to slow down work on the new epic. Progress was so slow at some points that Tolkien began to genuinely fear he was suffering from writer’s block and that he would never finish either The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion, his beloved but as-yet unfinished mythology for Britain.
You and I, as readers, historians, and Anglophiles, can thank the Inklings for the completion of The Lord of the Rings. This group, comprised of C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Hugo Dyson, and C. S. Lewis’ brother Major Warren Lewis, closely resembled Tolkien’s earlier social groups the TCBS and the Coalbiters. They usually met twice a week, once at a pub called The Eagle and Child (or Bird and Baby to the Inklings) and once at C. S. Lewis’ home. It was here that The Hobbit had first been read aloud while in progress, and it was this group that first heard The Lord of the Rings as told by Tolkien. Recognizing the literary merit and potential of the work, Tolkien’s fellow Inklings strongly encouraged him to get it done – if effect, get off your arse (or on it) and write. This was reinforced immeasurably by Tolkien’s son Christopher, at this time in South Africa with the Royal Air Force. Ronald sent his son parts of his writings, and Christopher critiqued them and encouraged his father. Christopher didn’t want to hear fairy tales on his father’s lap – he wanted to read epic myths written by his father’s hand.
Bogged down by the effort of writing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien set out one day in 1944 to write a new story, eventually entitled Leaf by Niggle. He actually wrote this one through to completion, and this finishing of a work in its entirety refreshed and re-energized Tolkien. He thus found himself with the willpower to finish The Lord of the Rings.
We have spent much time discussing Tolkien’s fictional writings, but the next year, 1945, bears mention of another of his accomplishments. It was during this year that Tolkien was elected Merton Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford. The young man smitten with an only slightly older Edith Bratt first arriving at Exeter College had now reached the pinnacle of his academic career.
If it didn’t outright repeat itself, history at least very closely resembled the events surrounding the publication of The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings was completed in 1947, but Tolkien kept making revisions and rewriting parts of it. By 1949, Tolkien had finally completed the work, but his ideas of publication led to a further delay. After having completed The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien saw its intimate connection with The Silmarillion and wanted to publish the two works at the same time. As The Silmarillion had been rejected by Allen & Unwin earlier, Tolkien began negotiations with Collins, another publishing firm. However, over the course of the next months and years, Collins wanted Tolkien to make cuts to the The Lord of the Rings that he was unprepared to make, and their feelings on The Silmarillion were, shall we say, less than stellar.
Tolkien’s negotiations with Collins broke down in 1952 and went back to Allen & Unwin, where little Rayner had grown up and begun working for the company. Rayner accepted The Lord of the Rings and, perhaps surprisingly, divided it up into the form we know today of 3 separate books with a continuous story. Although in the long run a great success for both Tolkien and the company, this would result in the world not seeing The Lord of the Rings as Tolkien had originally written it for years to come, even though it had been completed 3 years prior.
1954 saw the publication of the first two books, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, in August and November, respectively. Tolkien’s habit of revision and perfection delayed the publication of the third installment, The Return of the King, until October 1955. Ronald actually thought using the title “Return of the King” gave away too much of the plot, and actually wanted to call it “The War of the Ring.” However, his return to Allen & Unwin after the breakdown of negotiations with Collins was unconditional, and so by October 1955 the literary world was graced with The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. It is interesting to note that the work received its largest audience in the United States ten years later, and originally received it without official permission. Ace Books published an edition without Tolkien’s (or Allen & Unwin’s) consent, which was not illegal at the time. Disregarding Tolkien’s desire for compensation, this is significant because it denied the author any royalties on the massive number of books being sold. Ballantine Books, the authorized publisher, put out an official edition later that year, and Ace Books agreed to pay Tolkien a royalty for each copy sold and not reprint their edition. Although it is unrelated to the overall story of Tolkien’s life, I should mention now that if you ever come across an Ace Book edition of any of The Lord of the Rings books, keep it forever (or send it to your favorite podcast host…). Anyway, back to the story. The royalties that Tolkien received from the sale of his trilogy must have been astounding for the man who spent most of his years on the lower edge of middle class – by 1968, three million paperback copies of The Lord of the Rings had been sold.
1959 saw the conclusion of Tolkien’s 34 years at Oxford. The Merton Professor retired, wanting to complete The Silmarillion (which, after the success of The Lord of the Rings, was finally desired by Allen & Unwin). However, the large amount of free time he now had allowed him to devote himself more to some other things he had long wanted to do, one of the top priorities being to spend more time with his wife after his years of hours spent in academic and literary discussion circles and holed away at his desk writing. The years following his retirement also saw the publication of some of Tolkien’s less well-known works, such as The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and translations of Middle English poems that Tolkien had begun years earlier.
If you recall a few minutes ago, we discussed the story Leaf by Niggle that Tolkien wrote during his Lord of the Rings writer’s block. Ronald found himself in the same situation with The Silmarillion, and thus the story Smith of Wootton Major was born in 1964.
In our examination of the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, we have largely ignored his wife Edith. However, in 1968 the two moved to Bournemouth on the English coast so that Edith could be near her friends and enjoy the agreeable weather. Although late in life, this must have delighted Edith – she no longer had to live in Oxford where Tolkien was king, she had her friends close to her, and Ronald had much, much more time to spend with her. Edith enjoyed life in Bournemouth for three years before her death in November 1971. Perhaps out of mourning, perhaps out of a desire to go home, Tolkien returned to Oxford.
In 1972 Queen Elizabeth made J.R.R. Tolkien a Commander of the British Empire, and Oxford gave him honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Tolkien was receiving the well-deserved admiration and recognition to his contribution to the world of literature and the imagination of so many people, in all places and of all ages.
By this time, The Silmarillion had been in progress for 55 years, and Tolkien knew he could not complete it – besides, it was in such a jumbled state that it would take months, if not years, just to sort it out. He also knew that Britain’s high estate taxes would take most of any royalties he would receive from its publication upon his death, and so if it ever were to reach the public and provide financial reward to his inheritors, it would have to be done by his executor. Tolkien appointed his son Christopher, by now a long-time member of the Inklings, as his literary executor with instructions to complete The Silmarillion after Tolkien died.
In late summer 1973, Tolkien was back in Bournemouth to visit friends. It was then that it became possible for Christopher Tolkien to complete his father’s book; on 2 September, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien died.
A description of Tolkien’s funeral from Daniel Grotta’s biography of the author and teacher does a wonderful job of portraying the occasion. (For the passage read here, see: Grotta, Daniel. The Biography of J. R. R. Tolkien. Philadelphia: Running, 1978. p. 156)
Their headstone, with its reference to the love story in The Silmarillion, proves Tolkien’s commitment to his original mission, a mythology for Britain. It reads:
Edith Mary Tolkien
Luthien
1889-1971
John Ronald
Reuel Tolkien
Beren
1892-1973

Four years after his death, the work Tolkien began while in hospital during and after World War I finally saw publication. Christopher Tolkien finished the tale for his father, and it was finally published in 1977. It was 60 years in the making.
That’s it for this episode of British History 101. The approach that I originally took on producing this episode came in the form of two weeks – one for research, and one for writing. I have found this to be greatly advantageous, and I am going to use this format for a trial period to see if it fits well with our show. I would invite anyone to email me their thoughts and suggestions on this; how do you feel about an episode every two weeks? Along with your questions, comments, rants, and raves, email me at BritishHistory101@gmail.com. A transcript of this and past episodes of this podcast is available at BritishHistory101.com. Our music tonight is
“O Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast” 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 thank you for joining me on our journey through the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. It has truly been a pleasure, and I will see you again in two weeks’ time. Have a wonderful day!

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Episode 23: We’re back!

Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101.
As promised in the update you’ve heard for the past week or so, we finally find ourselves together again, learning something new about the history of Britain. I am so very glad that you have decided to join me, and I hope you enjoy the show. With this episode, I have spent a substantially greater amount of time researching than I usually do, and the result is what I see as a more thorough and educating show. With that comes a bit of additional length, but I do not think this will detract from the experience. If you’re a tea drinker, I’d recommend a cup of Earl Grey (as I am drinking while I record) or some other black tea to enjoy with the show. Take this time to pause, head to the kitchen for tea, and then settle in for our journey through the mists of Britain. I think it will be an enjoyable one.
A man named Arthur found himself employed at the Birmingham branch of Lloyds Bank in the late 19th century, right at the time that South Africa was becoming an attractive place for those interested in diamonds and gold. Feeling as though he wasn’t going to make any particularly glorious strides in his career in England, Arthur left for South Africa around 1890, being accepted into the position he had applied for at Lloyds Bank there.
Before he had left for the African continent, Arthur had fallen in love with one Mabel Suffield of Birmingham. Unfortunately, they were unable to marry while he was still in England, but the success his new job in Africa brought was sufficient to allow the two to wed each other. He requested that Mabel join him, and she consented. The two were married on 16 April 1891 at Cape Town Cathedral, soon moving to Bloemfontein where Arthur was based. One of the couple’s early joys in their shared life was their first child. On 3 January 1892, Mabel gave birth to a son, and it was thus that John Ronald Reuel Tolkien came into this world. The creator of one of the finest pieces of literature ever to be written had been born. John was a grandfather’s name, Ronald was a parental preference, and Reuel was Arthur’s middle name.
Ronald (as he was known to his parents) was born prematurely and a sickly child, in stark contrast to the health of his brother Hilary, born in 1894. The boys’ mother had long had a wish to return home to England, and the detrimental effect that the South African climate was having on Ronald’s health convinced the Tolkiens that Mabel should return to England, which she did in April 1895. Arthur was to join the family later. Unfortunately, he fell ill with rheumatic fever, prompting Mabel to make preparations to head for Bloemfontein with Ronald and Hilary. Ronald, excited to return to South Africa to see his father, asked his nurse to write Arthur a letter; unfortunately, Ronald’s father would never receive the letter. Arthur Tolkien died on 16 February 1896. His sons Ronald and Hilary were only 4 and 2.
After a bit of time spent with Mabel’s parents (which Ronald especially enjoyed – he loved his quick-witted Grandfather Suffield), the remaining Tolkiens made a financially difficult decision and moved to Sarehole, a mile south of Birmingham. It was here that Ronald became so deeply attached to the pastoral English countryside vividly represented in his later writings. His mother homeschooled him, instructing him in the reading and writing of English, the languages of Latin and French, art and calligraphy. Ronald became adept at drawing, finding particular interest in trees. It was at this point that Tolkien, fascinated with books, became interested in fairy tales and folklore. He even wrote his own stories, remembering into his later years a tale he composed about “a great green dragon.”
1900 saw two important events in the life of J.R.R. Tolkien: the beginning of Ronald’s institutional education when he passed the entrance examination for King Edward’s School in Birmingham, the best school in the city, and his mother Mabel’s conversion to Catholicism (much to the dismay of both her family and the late Arthur Tolkien’s). Having moved to Mosely, much closer to King Edward’s School, to save money on transportation, Mabel then moved the boys twice more and ended up in Edgbaston in 1902 to be close to the Birmingham Oratory, where her sons could receive education in matters both religious and academic. Ronald thus switched from King Edward’s School to St. Philip’s, where the parish priest Father Francis Xavier Morgan became a close and trusted friend of the family.
Finding himself academically beyond the opportunities offered by St. Philip’s, Ronald was able to win a Foundations Scholarship to King Edward’s and returned to the school in 1903, where he discovered a love for Greek; his mother would later brag that Ronald knew more Greek than she Latin. The joy that Ronald found at the study of the history of language there was cut short around New Year 1904; both he and Hilary contracted measles and whooping-cough. Mabel nursed her ailing sons back to health, but this effort in turn made Mabel fall ill, being diagnosed in spring 1904 with diabetes. After a restful and healing summer spent in the countryside near Birmingham (arranged with the help of Father Morgan), all seemed to be well until November, when the diabetes Mabel thought she had under control reared its head. Collapsing onto the kitchen floor, she fell into a coma in the early days of the month and held on until the 14th. Her sons Ronald and Hilary, aged 12 and 10, were orphans.
Father Morgan, who had been appointed guardian of the boys in Mabel’s will, placed them in the care of their aunt Beatrice. Unlike the rest of the Suffield and Tolkien clans, she held no particular religious views and was unopposed to the boys’ Catholicism. Her proximity to the Oratory allowed the boys to spend most of their time there with Father Morgan, waking each morning to don cassocks and surplices to serve Mass for their friend and guardian.
It became readily apparent that Ronald would excel in languages; at King Edward’s he studied Greek, Latin, French, German, then venturing into Old English, Welsh, and Old Norse on his own time. He even began making up his own languages, drawing inspirations from his cousins’ invention of the language Animalic. They were rough attempts, to be sure, but nonetheless they lay the foundation for some of Tolkien’s most fascinating work later in life.
Tolkien’s education at King Edward’s introduced him to Old English. A former instructor of Ronald’s named George Brewerton gave him an Anglo-Saxon primer, which lead Tolkien to the poem Beowulf. Tolkien enjoyed it immensely, continuing his adventure into the English language with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in Middle English.
On one of the several holidays that Father Morgan treated the boys to in Lyme-Regis, he learned that the boys were not as happy as they could be living with Aunt Beatrice, and thus Father Morgan arranged for them to live at a boarding house run by Mrs. Louis Faulkner in 1908, keeping them close to the Oratory. It was here that young Ronald met Edith Bratt, a fellow orphan and fast friend of Ronald and Hilary. Despite an age difference of three years between them (Edith was 19 and Ronald was 16), Ronald fell in love with Edith. It is highly probable that this love for Edith interfered in Ronald’s studying for a scholarship to Oxford in 1909, which he failed to achieve. Father Morgan learned of the love that Ronald and Edith had been keeping secret and duly forbade Ronald to see or communicate with Edith until he turned 21 – after all, if Ronald and Edith had been seen socializing in public, only God knew what was happening at the boarding house. Despite the ban on socializing, Ronald and Edith secretly met and exchanged gifts for their respective upcoming birthdays. Edith received a watch, and Ronald a pen. As you can probably guess, Father Morgan heard of this and renewed his prohibition on the relationship. Edith moved to Cheltenham to live with friends there, leaving Ronald to study for a second attempt at an Oxford scholarship.
Ronald Tolkien was involved in many different societies and clubs throughout his life, and it was at this time that he partook in the Tea Club, comprised of Ronald, Christopher Wiseman, R.Q. Gilson, the son of the headmaster at King Edward’s, and G.B. Smith. They spent free time together at the Tea Room of Barrow’s Stores, which later gave them the name T.C.B.S., or Tea Club-Barrovian Society. It was the T.C.B.C that Ronald called home socially, with its members being his best friends throughout his final year at King Edward’s, university, and the Army later in life. It is quite touching to know that Ronald, surrounded by young men trying to woo the ladies they took an interest in, avoided them as much as possible in order to stay true to Edith. He remained resolutely in love with the girl, despite her distance from him and the ban imposed by Father Morgan.
Ronald directed his attention towards studying for his next attempt at a scholarship, which he won in December 1910. The Open Classical Exhibition that he earned was a somewhat inferior award, but nonetheless it allowed him to attend Exeter College at Oxford University. Here, Tolkien made Comparative Philology his academic specialty, adding Celtic and Finnish to his linguistic repertoire, but he especially flourished in the numerous organizations he belonged to – rugby, the Debating Society, the Essay Club, the Dialectical Society, and his self-founded club the Apolaustiks.
In 1913 Ronald turned 21 and immediately wrote to Edith – the ban had been lifted. Edith, however, had in the interim become engaged to someone else, much to Tolkien’s dismay. However, he was not to be dissuaded. He traveled to Cheltenham and convinced his love that it was really Ronald that she should marry. Edith, realizing the love she really held for him, consented.
In that same year Tolkien specialized in linguistics, also studying Old Icelandic with W. A. Craigie. Ronald was indeed becoming an expert in languages. It was in the study of Old Icelandic that Ronald learned much of Norse mythology and folklore, and this would later affect the writings he would become so famous for.
Father Morgan had been opposed to the marriage between Ronald and Edith because Edith was not Catholic. However, she declared her intent to become Catholic in 1913 (which resulted in her eviction from her Cheltenham lodgings) and came into full union with Rome the following year. This removed the last obstacle preventing the marriage of the loving couple. Ronald was in the midst of studying for a second degree and they decided to wait until he had finished; unfortunately, the dark days of World War I were looming over Europe.
Ronald finished his second degree in 1915, drilling with the Officers’ Training Corps in his final year. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant with the Lancashire Fusiliers (the regiment which his old Tea Club friend G. B. Smith was based) and specialized in signaling due to his linguistics expertise. He left for France in June 1916, but not before marrying his sweetheart Edith on 22 March. After 8 years of clandestine love, long-distance pining, and patience in Tolkien’s studies, the two were finally married.
Tolkien escaped combat injury during the war, but his friends R. Q. Gilson and G. B. Smith did not fare as well as he. His two friends from the T.C.B.S. were killed in action in 1916. Tolkien was able to escape the horrors of war through no fault of his own; he contracted a severe case of trench fever in October 1916 and was sent to hospital in France to recover. The illness would not abate, and Ronald was sent back to England where he was able to be with his wife. His health wavered throughout 1917-18, but still he was far better off than he would have been in France: most of the members of his regiment were either captured or killed in the mindless chaos of the World War. Despite the dreadful scar this conflict left on humanity, joy was still to be found for the Tolkiens; Edith gave birth to their first child, John Francis Reuel Tolkien, on 16 November 1917. The happiness Ronald must have felt at this was augmented in 1918 when he became an assistant lexicographer with the Oxford English Dictionary, courtesy of his former Old Icelandic teacher William Craigie. Tolkien had achieved what many people even now cannot – he worked with his true passion, the nature and behavior of words.
Obviously in 1917-18, the years Ronald spent in recuperation from his trench fever, there was no television, no computer technology, no Internet. To pass the time, Ronald set about creating something that England did not have – its own mythology, drawing heavily from his knowledge of Icelandic lore. This was how Ronald created the core stories of The Book of Lost Tales, now better known as The Silmarillion, including “The Fall of Gondolin,” “The Children of Hurin,” and “The Tale of Beren and Luthien,” the last being based on his and Edith’s warm and loving relationship.
Tolkien’s love of language enabled him to become a tutor at Oxford, helping mostly female students learn Anglo-Saxon. He began earning enough to quite his job on the dictionary after two years. His application to become Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds was accepted in 1920. Ronald moved north to assume his new job in the fall of 1920, and Edith joined him in 1921 after the birth of their second son, Michael Hilary Reuel.
The Tolkiens spent 4 years in Leeds, during which Ronald directed linguistic studies for the entire university. It was also during this time that Tolkien collaborated with a colleague of his, E. V. Gordon, on a new edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, published in 1925. The result of their combined effort remains a popular item in academic study today. This accomplishment was rewarded by the University, which appointed Tolkien Professor of English Language in 1924 (although it was not published until 1925, Tolkien’s work with Gordon had received enough attention and recognition by 1924 to merit the promotion). Ronald’s promotion enabled his family to purchase their own house in Leeds, which was added to that year by their third son, Christopher Reuel.
The following year, 1925, Tolkien was given the opportunity to leave his well-deserved post at the University of Leeds: Oxford offered him the Rawlinson and Bosworth Chair of Anglo-Saxon, succeeding his old tutor and friend William Craigie. Tolkien accepted.
While Tolkien had still been at Leeds, he nearly completed what was now known as The Silmarillion. However, rather than finish the work, Tolkien began to revise and rewrite the book, and this would become a characteristic of his writing style for the rest of his life.
The Tolkiens’ move back to Oxford would result in them buying a house on Northmoor Road, only to buy the larger house next door in 1930 when their daughter Priscilla was born. Part of the time he spent at Oxford after his return was in the group known as The Coalbiters; it is interesting to know that one of Tolkien’s friends, a man named C.S. Lewis, was also a Coalbiter. This group met to read, in their original language, Icelandic sagas, getting their name from a word derived from a group of friends gathered around a fire to keep warm.
By this time, The Silmarillion had more or less been in production since 1917, and hopes of it ever being published were looking dim – Tolkien used to the stories within it to entertain his children, which lead him to make up more, unrelated stories for them. One of those seemingly unrelated stories was born one day while Tolkien was grading exams. He turned the page in a student’s examination booklet and found the next one blank; on it, he wrote “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
That is where I am going to stop for this week – I see that we are approaching the ___ minute mark for this episode, and the feedback that I have gotten consistently says that the relative brevity of this podcast is what makes it enjoyable; that is, I have been told that listeners prefer the show when it is digestible in one sitting, as it were! There is much more to the story of J.R.R. Tolkien, and exactly one week from today we shall finish it together; I guarantee that we will complete the story unlike our foray into Henry VIII!
A small reminder before we conclude for the evening:
“Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot,
I know of no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.”
Although the second (and less well-known) verse of that rhyme is substantially anti-papist (with me being Catholic), Guy Fawkes’ Day is still an amusing and fascinating topic for me. Celebrate this coming Monday – it’s an easy excuse for some relaxation around the warmth of a bonfire!
As usual, send any questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com You can find a transcript of this and previous episodes of this podcast at BritishHistory101.com. I’d really encourage everyone to visit the site, as I have been updating it with a few new links and would like to be active there while I’m researching and producing episode. Also, be sure to add yourself to the Platial map on the right side of the screen – it’s fascinating to see where everyone is! Special thanks tonight to John Hawksley, gracious provider of our opening theme, and John Lu, my generous helper in matters technical for publishing this podcast!
Our music tonight is “The Irish March” by Da Camera and available at 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.

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BH101 Update

I must apologise for the lack of an episode recently – please have a listen!

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