Thursday, 15 August 2013

Who Do I Think I Am?

It's the BBC's fault. And it was a double whammy. First, there's a new series of Who Do You Think You Are? on the box. I don't think I've missed an episode of the ten series so far, well, apart from the one's that haven't aired yet. And secondly, I have practically ever issue of the accompanying magazine (bar one; damned silly February shipping times!) which, as well as handy tips on doing your family tree and articles on the celebrities in the show, is a cracking read on history in general. And it was the magazine that planted the seed that has just come to fruition.

I've been doing my tree now, on and off, for about five years. I've not really looked at it for a while, but a brief mention of a database of canal workers who lived around Ormskirk in the WDYTYA? mag lodged in my head, and two nights ago thought I would take a look. One or two members of my maternal grandmother's family worked and lived on the canals, so thought I would take a look. What harm could it do? I might find something out I didn't know.

The proverbial floodgates opened (or should it be lockgates? It is about canals, after all?). I have discovered people I never knew existed, and have pushed the Lyon line back another two or three generations, right back to the mid-1700s. And it's been fun. And there's the problem.

It's addictive, this family history malarky. I can now forsee spending lots of time going over my research again, filling gaps, checking and rechecking what I already have, rethinking the method of data storage. It's dangerous. And it can be expensive. Subscriptions to websites, sending off for certificates, pay-per-view documents: it can drain your finances considerably.

But this time, I'm determined. I'm not going to resubscribe to the websites. At best (or worst, depending on how you see it), I'm going to go over my old research, rewrite and condense my paperwork, do a bit of pruning on the tree, getting rid of families that I'm not even related to, but who married the daughter of a son who I am. I got a bit carried away with my original research, and probably thousands of people I can cull!

Geneaology is a fascinating pursuit, and, although most people probably aren't interested in sitting down and drawing up a family tree or doing the research, the majority of people are intrigued or excited my family stories. Every family has them. Some of mine are colourful. Like my great-great grandfather on my dad's mum's side who ran off and joined the circus. Or the distant uncle who committed suicide with a cut-throat razor. Or the great-grandfather who damaged his brain in a motorcycle accident and later tried to burn a house down. Or the part of the family that went over to Argentina to help build their railways. And I could go on.

Every family is full of great stories. The fascination with finding someone famous, or aristocratic, or royal, holds no truck with me. And the annoyance of some people claiming descent from named ancestors without the simple shred of evidence except a shared surname causes me to roll my eyes constantly. The everyday lives of agricultural labourers, the dock workers, the mill-hands, the canal folk: it is these people that I am most attuned to, and excited to find out more about. And it is these people we should be proud of being descended from.

(That said, I am distantly related to Ulysses S Grant, general and President, and a bit of a hero of mine...)

Monday, 12 August 2013

Baabarian Hordes

You come across many hazards when you're walking. A wobbly stile here. Brambles, nettles and all manner of spiky plants there. An unseen pothole when you're wandering across a field of wheat. Unpaved country roads that should be safe to walk, except satnav drivers are sent down it and drive like they're on the motorway. And not to mention disappearing footpaths ("It's right here on the map, so where the hell is it?!!").

But one of the main things you come across when you're on your travels will be animals. They come in all shapes and sizes, but they all pose problems in their own ways. And none of them are wild: they are supposedly domesticated.

The first hazardous animal that comes to most minds is the cow. This animal has hurt most walkers than any other, and rightfully deserves to be respected. Not the brightest animal on the planet, but it is a heavy bit of kit. A solid chunk of muscle, the best part of a ton. With udders. And horns. Most of the time, they are simply a little skittish of your being in the field with them. If they're lying down, they will stand up. They're not being polite, and welcoming you into their field. They simply want to stare you out. And make sure you leave. And if you get too close, they will do a silly little jump and run as fast as their bulk will let them. Which is surprisingly swift most of the time. Sometimes they may think you're the farmer, though, and may have food, so you may get followed from time to time.

The time they get a bit of a mood is when they are in calf. With lots of little ones running around, they understandbly get a bit more alert, and watch your every move. There was a time when I was walking on Hadrian's Wall with my friend Joe, and we had to move through a paddock with some very young calves with their mothers. There wasn't much room for manoeuvre, and it was quite hairy being so close to a mardy mother with a calf under her legs. But, to date (and touch wood), I have never had a close encounter with an enraged cow. And I don't fancy it either. Just today, I gave a field full of cows and calves a wide berth so I didn't disturb them; a straight 100-metre path became about 200-metres as I curved around them.

I have also never had a close-call with a bull. I've been past many, but never had to share a field with one. The solitary bull in a field, that will chase a hiker up a tree or over a wall, may be a device used in comedy, but it is a common occurence. Only last week, a farmer in Nottinghamshire was charged with manslaughter when a bull charged a couple walking across the field, killing the man and injuring his wife. The sexually mature bull is naturally aggressive, especially if surrounded by cows who are in season. According to law, only young animals should be kept in fields with footpaths. But even this has its downfalls.

Young bulls and bullocks, whilst technically not as dangerous as their mature counterparts, are just as pushy as their elders. And what makes me a bit more cautious when I'm in a field with them is the fact that they are usually in herds. I have been in a field with thirty-to-forty young bulls who have followed me every step. I don't think it was malice; I think they had a natural curiousity, but at the time, it was bloody scary! Lots of young, big bulls, with sprouting horns, practically nudging me along. It was a bit disconcerting. Especially when they sprint towards you and look like they're about to charge.

One thing you don't see a lot of is goats. Unless you're wandering around Morocco, or up in the Alps somewhere, I doubt you will see many of these creatures. Unless you pop into a petting zoo somewhere, or happen across the rare herd of Kashmiri on Great Orme. It's a shame we don't really have them in farms any more. Their milk is okay, and they make great curry. Their meat, that is. Not the goat.

Horses and ponies next. I usually put them into three mood brackets: aloof, nervous, and overly friendly. A horse in a field is always a pleasant sight, and, certainly if you're walking in fields close to large towns, the most common animal you're likely to see. And wild ponies are always a magical encounter. I've come across them in Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire and even in the hills above Conwy and Penmaenmawr, and they are almost always beautiful creatures, but they are naturally a bit more wary of you than your average horse.

Whilst not under the domesticated bracket, birds are definitely a hazard. Especially if you're on an island or a cliff. In nesting season. Prepare to flown at. Or 'bombed'.

Dogs are sometimes an annoyance, but they can also be quite threatening. On the one hand, I've been jumped on my a muddy spaniel who wanted to make friends more times than I can remember. On the other, I was stalked across farmland on the Wirral by a rottweiler who had gotten out of his garden. Luckily, he got bored and went back. God alone knows what would have happened. He wasn't the most pleasant dog I've ever encountered.

But of late, the scariest creature I have had the displeasure of sharing several fields around the country is not one you immediately think as an animal of foreboding. One that would have you almost running out of the field. Heart beating faster. Shouting to scare them away, in vain. And that creature is the sheep. Yes, you read right. The sheep.

Untoward ungulates. Outraged ovids. It happened three times last year. All the years I've been walking, and it only happened last year. Maybe there was something in the air. But on three seperate occasions (near Ambleside, Cumbria; near Chatburn, Lancashire; and in Gaerwen, Anglesey), I was followed, quite aggressively, by entire herds of sheep. To be fair, it was lambing season, so I was ambling across fields full of lambs and their hyperattentive mothers, and was expecting some reponse. Normally the ewes just have a wee and run away, lambs in tow (I have no idea why they feel the need to do that first). But not in these cases. The elders of the herd, that looked like Nora Batty and Ena Sharples reincardnated into wooly form, took the lead, and were very almost biting my arse across the field. When I upped a gear to get away faster, they did too. Only getting over a stile to escape into the next field or onto a road did the ordeal cease. If they were rams, I would understand, but it was like being hounded by the sheep equivalent of Mumsnet. In all three cases, they were one breed of sheep: the Herdwick. These sheep were brought from Scandinavia by Norse settlers, so maybe they have a bit of beserker Viking spirit to them!

I'm sure I will get into more scrapes with the local livestock in the future...

Monday, 5 August 2013

Eat Me, Drink Me, Make Me, Wear Me

As many of you may know, I've been a heritage volunteer at Croxteth Hall for some years now. This involves dressing up as a Victorian/Edwardian era Butler (waistcoat, tails, bowtie, fob watch: the works) and showing people around the former country seat of the Molyneux family, the Earls of Sefton. Also, during the winter, the Hall becomes a timewarp for local schoolchildren, as they come into a Victorian house with a full complement of outside and inside staff, and they get to see, and do, what would have happened in a stately home. We all play roles, rangers and volunteers alike, and try to stay in character as much as possible so as to not spoil the illusion. It's all good fun.

But it isn't just fun; it's educational. The children go away learning more in one two or three hour session than they would probably do sat in a classroom with so many distractions. That is because they are engaged, and their imaginations, and hopefully inspirations, are fired by their personal interaction and participation in the world of immersive education.

Not that I think that 'living history' should replace history as it is taught in schools. Quite the contrary. But it is a worthwhile addition, as you learn so much more by doing something than just hearing or reading about it. Which is why I'm often surprised by some historians' sniffy attitude when it comes to living history and re-enactment in general.

It remind me of the spat that took place between David Starkey and Lucy Worsley a couple of years ago. Starkey made a jibe about Lucy dressing up in period clothes and generally first hand experiencing how life would have been like, what the food was like, and so on, in the various periods she was looking at whilst making her series, If Walls Could Talk. And she's done it ever since. She's never that far away from a frock, a wig or underwear of some description. Does this make her any less a serious historian? Is this dumbing down history?

Some historian would argue yes, but surely the understanding of the practical and everyday would answer some questions that arise whilst researching in the library and archives? And how and why things that are found in the ground during archaeological digs break or are lost in times past?

Living history, re-enactment, experimental archaeology, call it what you will; these have been filling in the gaps of our knowledge for many years now. It is through research and practical experience that we know how the lorica segmentata works on a Roman legionary, thanks to groups like th Ermine Street Guard. It is from groups who specialise in Iron Age metallurgy that we understand the skill of our ancestors in crafting fine weapons and jewellery. And the list of examples could be endless. How to build a round-house. How Stonehenge was built. Why Norse ships were so good. How a Greek trireme worked.

Out understanding of something comes from doing them, or learning from someone who has done it, and passes down their knowledge. History is the passing down of knowledge and how things were and are done. It is not just about people, dates, battles. It is about the little people. The little things. The things done everyday that are taken for granted, and so not written down by anyone writing in contemporary sources. Not everything we can learn from the past is written in book. Or found in the ground. Sure, we can take them as a starting point, but the real catalyst for understanding is doing. Seeing. Touching. Tasting.

In my main line of historical research, that of military history, it is bad practice not to visit the landscape of the battle to gain an understanding of how and why events took place. It is also common to become acquainted with the weapons, armour, and technology, and that often involves handling them. In some cases, even dressing in the period clothing and armour. All of this gives one a better understanding. I believe all fields of historical research would be best served by some physical education. If not doing yourself, conversing with those that do.

Living history and its many fellows should not be seen as lesser field. These people are often piecing together puzzles and putting them to practical use that may have been the way that things were done. Yes, it is sometimes entertainment, but isn't that the best way to learn? To be educated when you are least expecting it? Children and adults alike are drawn to living history events. Be it a medieval encampment in the fields of Tatton Old Hall. Or the Normans and Saxons fighting year-in, year-out on the slopes of Senlac. Or Victorian soldiers wandering around the gardens of Erddig. They are not there simply for the costumes, or the displays. They are often there to learn, ask questions, and, just maybe, interested in getting involved themselves.

If dressing up in period clothing is history for the lowest common denominator, then so be it. History was mainly made and written by the elite, and the lowest common denominator was often ignored. Living history and re-enactment brings the minutiae of life back to the fore. And long may it do so.

So, I hope that historians of the future will venture out of the library once in a while. It can't harm your credibility to wear a silly hat once in a while. Or actually shoot a longbow for the first time even though you've written books on medieval archery. It seems okay for television historians to use re-enactors as background noise and pretty illustrations on their programmes, but then completley diminish the importance of such groups in historical understanding. The same has been done with art in history books for many years, and not using them as a source in themselves. But that's a topic for another time...

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Men (And Boys) Who Would Be King (Part Three)

And so, we move to the final part of the list...

13) William, Duke of Gloucester (1689-1710)

The only surviving child of Anne and her husband, Prince George of Norway and Denmark, William was seen as the future for the new Stuart dynasty, cementing in place the Protestant line as opposed to that of his grandfather, James II's Catholic line. His aunt, Mary II, died when he was young, but he got on well with his Dutch uncle, William III, who reigned alone after her death(and I mean alone; the English people generally distrusted this 'foriegn' ruler, despite the fact they invited him in to get rid of James II). William was made a Kinght of the Garter when only a toddler, and he developed his own miniature army of young boys. However, following a trend in heirs to the throne when the future depends on them, William was a sickly child, and his health often failed him. He died aged 11, leaving only his mother as the sole heir. The Act of Settlement was drawn up the following year, that supported the claim of the distant relatives, the kings of Hanover, to become the rulers of the newly United Kingdom of Great Britain following the rule and death of Queen Anne.

14) Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales (1707-1751)

Son of George II and Caroline of Ansbach, like the rest of his family, he was born and raised a German in the kingdom of Hanover. He never got on well with his parents, who seemed to despise him for no reason. He was not allowed to leave Hanover upon his father succession to the throne of England, and was therefore unable to take up his position as Prince of Wales until the year after the coronation. He was interested in politics, and was especially drawn to the more Whiggish elements of the opposition. He was also a lover of the arts, loving artists and painting, and even dabbled in writing plays, although the latter was deemed a huge failure. He even had connections to the musical world, and was an accomplished musician himself. However, his greatest musical patronage would be Thomas Arne's 'Rule Britannia'. He even dabbled in sport, and was very closely involved in promoting and playing cricket. He seemed, for all intents and purposes, the perfect English prince. The public and parliament loved him, but his parents loathed him. He brought some scandal to the family (he had a few affairs) and also came cap in hand when he almost became bankrupt due to rich living and gambling debts. They seemed glad when he died young at the age of 44, but the country mourned. He did, however, leave an heir, who became the next Prince of Wales, and would later become George III, which brought a new set of problems.

15) Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763-1827)

The 'Grand Old Duke of York' of nursery rhyme, Frederick was the second son of George III, and brother to George IV. As his elder brother had only the daughter (who married Prince Leopold (later King of the Belgians)), who died in childbirth, Frederick was the heir assumptive from 1817.

Frederick was a military man (hence the popular rhyme), and climbed the ranks quickly (something which his rank as a royal prince made easy). He was on active servive during the wars that followed the French Revolution, but he was deemed an ineffectual general. One thing he did pick up from his experience was the lack of organisation in the army, and following the Napoleonic Wars, he became a great reformer of the armed forces, a task made all the easier when when he was promoted to Commander-in-Chief. He helped found Sandhurst to better educate and develop officers, but his downfall came when his mistress was caught selling commissions. Whilst he married, he and his wife, Fredeica Charlotte of Prussia, were never close, and lived seperate lives. They had no children. He died in 1827 of dropsy, and his death began something of a succession crisis. None of his younger brothers were married or had children, so there became something of a race to produce an heir. His younger brother William became heir (and later William IV), but he too had no children, so it was down to the daughter of the fourth son, Edward, Duke of Kent, to become the hope of the Hanover line: she was Alexandrina Victoria.

16) Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence (1864-1892)

The eldest son of the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII), Albert was the grandson of the reigning Queen Victoria, and she could see clearly that her line was safe for the future. However, if she thought her son and heir was a problem, Albert was even more of an embarrassment. Arrogant, idle, and dim-witted, he was a liability. Even more so when the Cleveland Street scandal broke, where his name was mentioned in connection with a male brothel. There are some that also suspect him of being involved in the Jack the Ripper case, if not the killer himself. Whatever his family thought of him, his friends and the country at large adored him. He was dashing, handsome, and a bit of a rogue, and people seemed to love that. The family arranged an important match for him, but he caught influenza during the epidemic of 1889-92, and died shortly before his scheduled wedding. His bride-to-be, Princess Mary of Teck, shortly married his youngest brother, Prince George, later to be George V.

And this ends our look at the heirs that never quite made it. Of course, their stories can be fleshed out a considerable amount, but all have great tales to tell (some more than others: some warrant (and indeed have) books written about them on their own. But I hope that you all enjoyed this run-down, and the repercussions that most of them had on the future. The possibility that some of them may have somehow survived throws up a plethora of interesting 'what-ifs'!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Men (And Boys) Who Would Be King (Part Two)

So, here's part two of the rundown of the heirs apparent that never became king. From here on in, it gets a bit bloody...

7) Edward of Woodstock, 'the Black Prince' (1330-1376)

It's easy to get a bit excited when talking about the Black Prince, so I'll try to cut it short! Paragon of chivalry; the perfect knight; one of the most trusted generals of his father, Edward III. He fought his first battle in his teenage years, and fought and victored with his father at Crecy in 1346. Ten years later, he commanded his own army and defeated the French again at Poitiers. He was given Aquitaine to rule by his father, which he governed well, and its court considered one of the finest in Europe. He later fought in Spain, winning a great victory at Najera. However, Spain would be his undoing. He contracted dysentry, which plagued him for years, and he died in 1376, a year before his ailing father. The title of Prince of Wales, and the heir to the throne, passed to the Black Prince's only son and child, Richard. His disastrous and tyrannical reign would end in his incarceration and death, and the rise of the House of Lancaster, paving the way for the Glyn Dwr Rebellion, and the future Wars of the Roses.

8) Edward of Westminster (1453-1471)

Son of the mad king, Henry VI, and his wife, the domineering Margaret of Anjou. The only son of the sad king, Edward drawn into the intrigues and open warfare between the Houses of Lancaster and York from an early age. When his father was captured at the battle of Northampton in 1460, Edward fled with his mother, only to rise again, and their armies defeating the Yorkists at Wakefield (with the Duke of York himself being killed), and also at St Albans, where they routed an army under the Earl of Warwick. Edward himself ordered the beheading of two of Warwick's knights in the battle's aftermath. He was seven. Soon after, they were defeated at Towton, the biggest and bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil, and escaped into exile. During this period of exile in France, he developed into a bloodthirsty and generally unpleasant person. He married the turncoat Warwick's daughter, Anne Neville, and he and his mother invaded England with the help of the traitorous Lord Warwick. Warwick was defeated at the battle of Barnet, and the Queen's army in turn was annihilated at Tewkesbury. Edward, the Prince of Wales, was killed in battle, although some sources say he was executed shortly after it. The direct Lancastrian line had now been extinguished, leaving the Yorkists in absolute power. Only an indirect line, through the Beaufort and Tudor lines, now existed.

9) Edward of Middleham (1473-1484)

The only son of Richard III and his wife, Anne Neville, the widow of the above heir. A sickly child, his father was still Duke of Gloucester when he born, and a loyal subject of his brother Edward IV. Upon the latters death, Richard became first Protector of Edward V and his brother, and on their claimed illegimatacy and disappearance, became king himself, thus making Edward Prince of Wales. He was, however, a sickly child, missed the coronation, and soon died. The only heir of Richard III, it appeared that the short-lived Yorkist dynasty would come to an end.

10) Arthur Tudor (1486-1502)

The eldest son of the Tudor king Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York, was a triumph for his father. Not only had he won the crown on the field of battle, and united two warring Houses with his union with the daughter of Edward IV, he also now had a son, and thus a stronger grip on the throne, and a dynasty to follow. He was betrothed and later married Katherine of Aragon, in a political alliance his father has manufactured between England and Spain. He was a bright child, if not a little quiet, and also prone to illness. It was illness that killed him, a year after he married Katherine, leaving her a widow, but not for long, as Henry VII arranged for her to marry his next heir, the young Henry. And from there, I think you can work out what happens.

11) Henry Frederick Stuart (1594-1612)

The son of James I and VI, he became Prince of Wales when his father became King of England in 1603. Well-loved throughout the united Kingdoms, he was a handsome young man, gifted with leadership qualities, and was a keen lover and patron of the arts. He was also interested in military affairs, and was said to have a sharp martial mind. He was showing himself to be a truly capable and popular future king. But then he died of thyphoid fever at age 18. The nation felt a terrible loss, and outpourings of grief could be compared to the public reaction to Lady Diana's death in 1997. The duty of heir-apparent now fell to his younger, and less able, brother, Charles.

12) James Francis Edward Stuart (1688-1766)

Just by being born, James' future, and the downfall of his father, had already been written. Born to James II and his wife, Mary of Modena, at a time of great political upheaval and religious strife, James was born into a strongly Catholic Royal Family in a strongly Protestant country. Parliament and the nation in general has reacted badly at James II's insistence in placing Catholics into positions of trust and power throughout the kingdom. On James' birth, which brought the threat of a future and continued line of Catholic monarchs, Parliament invited the eldest daughter of James II, Anne, and her husband, William of Orange, to replace James II. The Royal Family fled into exile, and the young James later became known as the 'Old Pretender' as he and his family, including his future son, 'Bonnie Prince' Charles Stuart (the 'Young Pretender') fought for their right to the throne against Stuart, Orange and Hanover monarchs for sixty years of Jacobite risings, to no avail. His reign, should he have become king upon the death of his father, would have been the longest in British history.

More in a few days!

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Men (And Boys) Who Would Be King (Part One)

Partially inspired by the birth of Prince George of Cambridge, and partially because it is just one of my many, many projects to write a book about the heirs to the throne of England that never quite made it, so I've decided to give you all this sneak-peek list of those very people. There's more than you think. Some are big names, some you may have never heard of. But one common thread that they almost all have is that their deaths before the reigning monarch started something of a crisis, or the next in line to the throne wasn't best suited to the role. For the sake of ease, I have chosen post-Conquest English heirs-apparent; going back further, or even into Welsh and Scottish regal history would only complicate things: they're very tricky kettles of fish! So, we start with the first, and, as there's so many, I'll do a few a day...

1) Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy (c.1054-1134

The eldest son of William I, he was a skilled soldier, and showed martial prowess from quite an early age. Always something of a hothead, he was often driven to rages by those around him, including his father and his brothers. Which is why he never became King of England. After a prank by his younger brothers, William Rufus and Henry (both later Kings of England), he revolted against his father, attempting to capture Rouen, but failed spectacularly, and escaped arrest. Such was his deeds that his father had to seek the help of the French king, Philip I, to bring his errant son to heel. Indeed, he almost killed his father in battle in 1079. Despite the obvious emnity between Robert and his father, William I made him Duke of Normandy in his will, the Kingdom of England going to his younger brother, William Rufus. The two decided to be the others heir if they should die without a child, but Robert reneged on this promise and rebelled against his brother with the aid of English barons, but he never bothered to show up to his own rebellion, and it quickly failed. He later went on the First Crusade, and whilst he was away, his brother William Rufus died, and Henry I siezed the throne. Robert rebelled again, this time invading England, but his support dwindled, and he limped back to Normandy. His younger brother counter-invaded Normandy, and defeated him in battle. The Duchy of Normandy was claimed as a Royal dominion, and Robert found himself imprisoned in Devizes and Cardiff castles until he died of old age.

2) William the Aetheling (1103-1120)

Son of Henry I and Matilda of Scotland, William was the apple of his fathers eye, and the future of the Norman dynasty rested with him. His father made him Duke of Normandy so that he did not personally have to pay homage to Louis VI, King of France, a duty that William himself performed in 1120. He was also given the authority to run the kingdom in the absence of his father, and married the eldest daughter of the Count of Anjou, further cementing the alliance between these two mighty dynastic families. Everything was going so well for William and his father. Then, William boarded the White Ship, taking him and his followers from Barfleur back to England. They had all been drinking, and making merry until late in the night when the ship finally set sail. It is not known exactly what happened, but the ship hit a rock, and sank, with most people on board drowning. It is written in some sources that William at first survived, and tried to rescue his half-sister and many others, but he succumbed to the cold and the water, and was never seen again. Henry I was distraught. His only son and heir had died, and all of his hopes for the future died with him. He married again (his first wife, Matilda, dying in 1118), but it never produced a child, and especially the all-important male heir. There would be two claimants to the throne upon Henry's death: his daughter Matilda, Holy Roman Empress and only surviving child, and his nephew, Stephen of Blois. The two would come head to head in the first English civil war, known as The Anarchy.

3) Eustace, Count of Boulogne (c.1129-1153)

The eldest son of Stephen of Blois, he was only a young boy when his father siezed power during the Anarchy, and was too young to fight in the wars against his distant relative, Empress Matilda. In 1147, he was knighted, and took part in a few skirmishes in Normandy soon after. In 1152, Stephen had the barons pay homage to Eustace as heir-apparent, but the clergy declined as he had not been recognised by the Vatican. In what appeared to contemporaries as a sign of God's wrath, Eustace died the year after, paving the way to the throne for Matilda's son, Henry II, who was formally recognised as sucessor to Stephen, and thus starting the line of the Plantagenets.

4) William, Count Of Poitiers (1153-1156)

First son of Henry II and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, he was born the day that Eustace, Count of Boulogne, died, thus making his father heir-apparent to King Stephen, and thus making him also heir. However, he died two years into his father's reign, making his younger brother the next in line...

5) Henry, the Young King (1155-1183)

Second son of Henry II. He was noted as a charming youth, and was quite well loved by the court. He was crowned king at age 15 in a formal coronation, but as his father was still regnant, he has never been recognised as a true king, and hence his title, to differentiate between him and his father. He was closely involved in his father's reign, taking the lead in politics and negotiations with France and other foriegn powers. Despite this, he never really showed much interest in politics, and was more concerned with hunting and feats of chivalry. Despite his chivalrous leanings, he was less a courteous knight, and rebelled against his father and younger brother, Richard, in 1173, plunging England and France into another familial civil war. In 1182, he picked a fight with William Marshal, the most poweful lord in England, and again rebelled against his brother Richard. Whilst on campaign in France in 1183, he contracted dysentry, and died shortly afterwards. His only child, a boy, William, died in infancy, which left the throne open for younger brother Richard, and later, youngest brother John, to claim.

6) Alphonso, Earl of Chester (1273-1284)

Ninth child, and first son, of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, and thus heir-apparent to the Kingdom of England. He was engaged to marry the daughter of the Count of Holland, but died in 1284, not long after the birth of his younger brother, Edward, who would later be the first Prince of Wales, and who would unravel most of his father's achievements in parliament and Scotland.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

A New Age

Well, I've had this thing dormant here for so long, it has got digital dust which needed blowing off of it. So, yeah, this is my blog. Last time I wrote one, MySpace was king. Funny how things change. Now it's all facebook, YouTube, twitter and flying monkey butlers. I figured it was time to add another string to the proverbial and get down and start writing again. It's a rusty organ. The writing, that is, not, you know.

So the raison d'etre of this blog is to pool together my loves, and try to congeal them into a coherent whole. Maybe congeal wasn't the best word to use. Makes it sound a bit messy. Haaaaaaaaaanyway, these loves are, chiefly, history and travel (hence the blog/twitter/future website name), although I'm sure a bit of film and TV, books, art, music and anything that shinily catches my attention.

I've a few things brewing at the moment, so expect stream of consciousness semi-essays on all manner of topics, including: a short history of the heirs to the throne that didn't quite make it; landowners and blocked footpath access; my review of The White Queen series so far. And other goodies to comes.

Also, if anyone fancies History According To Geoff, give me some ideas and I may make it a regular feature!

Pip pip, and chocks away!