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The ten worst Britons in history?

This is a very entertaining and well-illustrated 2006 article, choosing one arch-villain for each century from the eleventh to the twentieth. The all-male list includes just one King but two Archbishops of Canterbury.

So what do you think?

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Richard wasn’t the only king to die horribly….

death-of-riii

Richard III’s body is brought back to Leicester. Artwork by Victor Ambrus

We all know the grim, but glorious way poor Richard met his death, his body maltreated at the callous behest of Henry Tudor – who was destined to die in his own bed. He isn’t listed in the link below, but his was not an easy death.  

A lot of other monarchs died wretchedly too, as you’ll read – be warned though, Richard is reckoned guilty of all the usual ‘crimes’.  

http://metro.co.uk/2015/03/26/richard-iii-and-13-other-kings-and-queens-who-died-a-grizzly-death-5118520/

 

A year of anniversaries

shakespeare

2016 has been the 1000th anniversary of Edund Ironside’s accession and death, also of the death of his father Ethelred Unraed and the double accession of Cnut of Denmark. It has also been the 950th anniverary of the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings, being the end of the House of Wessex after its interruption.
Four centuries ago, St. George’s Day to be exact, marks the death of Shakespeare and possibly his 1564 birth. Opinion is still divided as to whether, in Richard III’s case among others, he merely embroidered what passed for history during his lifetime or invented many of the significant events he wrote about. At least we can precisely date his death better than we can his birth and we can, ironically, rely on the flow of his plays relating accurately to the culture of his own time, such as Cordelia’s execution, which could not have happened in Richard’s own century.

In March, Helen Castor marked the anniversary on Channel Four by investigating the fate of the Bard’s own remains in this documentary. It transpires that, having been buried in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church with his family and a forbidding epitaph(1), GPR investigations show that his skull is probably missing, just like Morton’s at Canterbury Cathedral. Richard, of course, was intact except for his feet. It seems that not everyone over the years heeded the curse:

(1) Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Bleste be Middle English the.svg man Middle English that.svg spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he Middle English that.svg moves my bones

Edmund Ironside

Edmund II (Ironside) is a curiosity among English Kings. He reigned for barely seven months, succeeding his father Ethelred II (Unraed) on St. George’s Day 1016 but dying “in suspicious circumstances” on St. Andrew’s Day the same year. He was the half-brother of Edward the Confessor and grandfather of Edgar the Atheling, thus the ancestor of every English monarch from 1154. As the grandfather of St. Margaret of Wessex, second wife of Malcolm III, he was the ancestor of every Scottish monarch from 1093 (except Donald Bain, Malcolm’s brother).

Edmund’s reign began from a bad position as the northern part of England was occupied by the Danes. Sveyn Forkbeard, their King, had temporarily supplanted Ethelred in 1013 but he died the following year and Ethelred’s authority was restored. Edmund, Ethelred’s third but eldest surviving son, fought alongside him and continued the struggle after his death, raising an army and defeating the Danes, under Sveyn’s son Cnut, at least twice near London until he suffered a reverse at Assandun in October 1016 and re-divided England with Cnut. He died the following month, possibly poisoned by Eadric Streona, his brother-in-law, and Cnut became King of all England. In any event, Cnut had Eadric executed at Christmas the following year.

Assessing Edmund as a King and commander is, therefore, even more difficult than with Richard III, his descendant. Another connection is that a play from c.1590, reputedly written by Shakespeare, is named Edmund Ironside, heavily featuring Cnut and Eadric. A sequel, Hardicanute, named for Cnut’s son and successor but one, is now lost.

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