Usury in Medieval England: Lending Money to the King

Detail from Death and the Miser by Hieronymus Bosch, National Gallery of Art, Source: Wikipedia

It’s pretty much a given that usury was considered a sin by almost all Christians; even Dante put usurers in the seventh circle of hell. However, the degrees of sinning and the exact definition of usury is debated to this day, so I am merely a novice dipping my big toe into the ocean of discourse. Nonetheless, I always wondered how people got away with it. After all, no one would take the risk of lending money without some sort of recompense, would they?

Since medieval Christians were forbidden to practice usury, it fell upon the Jews to engage in this unsavory profession—as long as they didn’t lend to other Jews. After all, in England Jews were not allowed traditional trades; they were marginalized into socially inferior professions like tax or rent collection or money changing. Unfortunately for them, their practice made the Jewish moneylender the first victim whenever it was convenient for those in authority—or mobs—to rid themselves of their pesky creditors. Again and again we hear tales of their murder, arrest, torture, or expulsion, and I wonder how that behavior could possibly encourage the next generation to continue lending?

But in this article, I’m interested in how the crown got its loans. After all, war was an expensive business and the taxes approved by Parliament took months to collect—and they usually didn’t cover all the bills. In fact, it is widely believed that Edward III was responsible for giving Parliament the idea that they could force their agenda on the king in exchange for the next round of taxes—first one, then the other. My research tells me that the money needed by the king was borrowed in advance, with the provision that the lenders would be paid off with the proceeds from the next tax collection, or sometimes “on the customs of the ports”.

BL Add. 27695, f.8. Cocharelli of Genoa. Bankers in an Italian counting house in the 14th cent. Source: Wikipedia

The first three Edwards borrowed money from Italian banking-houses, but they were notorious for not paying back their loans. At first, the bankers were motivated by profit, but soon they needed to keep lending money to ensure they didn’t lose what they had already invested. The two largest bankers, the Peruzzi and the Bardi, collapsed in the 1340s, and most historians believe that Edward III’s nonpayment of colossal loans was the main contributing factor.

Some of the wealthier magnates, bishops, merchants, or corporations were tapped again and again for royal loans. They were issued tallies by the king’s commissioner that they could later redeem when the exchequer was solvent—in theory. It was more reliable to advance loans to be credited against their own future taxation. Coercion was not unheard of: according to K.B. McFarlane, a contemporary writer told us that in Henry V’s day, “Italian merchants had been given a choice between lending and going to prison and had in some cases preferred prison”. (Richard II wasn’t the only king guilty of “forced loans”! But that’s another story.)

It’s an outside possibility that people lent money to the crown out of the kindness of their hearts—expecting no return—anxious to serve their country. It’s more likely that at the very least, the creditor stood to gain trading concessions or licenses, or some kind of preference. But the most convincing explanation of all, considering everyone wanted to skirt the illegality of usury, was that they were compensated, but in a way that made it difficult to prove. Fortunately, some evidence has survived that has enabled historians to track the clever devices used to conceal usury. For instance, in the case of royal tallies, they were often taken at a large discount: it was recorded that “one Robert Worsley, mercer of London, took two royal tallies for a total of £500 in settlement of a debt of £400 owed him by John, Duke of Bedford”¹. That’s a pretty hefty markup!

The Usurers by Quentin Metsys, Galleria Doria Pamphilj (Rome) Source: Wikipedia

Enter the word chevisance or chevance: essentially a form of disguised usury. This term was used regardless of the size of the loan. Contemporary literature is full of rebukes concerning this damnable practice, which they often referred to as bastard usury. To leave no trace, the sum recorded in the exchequer was the amount that was to be repaid, not what was loaned (the loan was known as mutuum). Often, the money that was loaned did not even go to the treasurer; he was only responsible for paying the debt and nothing more. Rarely was the documentation more precise than that. However, there was one incident that demonstrated how ruinous the rate could be. In 1376, the London merchant Richard Lyons was impeached with the charge that he took a 50% markup against the exchequer. It was said that he lent 20,000 marks and received back £20,000; a mark was 2/3 of a pound (not exactly a 50% markup, but who knows?). John of Gaunt defended him, saying “that the rate was nothing out of the ordinary for a royal loan”.² No wonder the exchequer was always broke! Cardinal Beaufort—one of the wealthiest men of his time—is said to have lent the crown an excess of £200,000 during his career (he survived well in to Henry VI’s reign); there were times he was the only bulwark between the country and bankruptcy. It can only be assumed he didn’t get rich on his benefices alone, and he was accordingly castigated by his detractors.

Although the official ban on usury wasn’t lifted until the eighteenth century, in practice everyone pretty much looked the other way. After all, even the pope needed to borrow money. As long as it was for a good cause, usury could be rationalized…somehow.

 ¹ McFarlane, K.B., Loans to the Lancastrian Kings, the Problem of Inducement, from England in the Fifteenth Century, Collected Essays, The Hambledon Press, 1981, p.72
² ibid, p.77

That’s no way to say ‘Goodbye.’ Guest Post by Judith Arnopp

Henry VIII, att. to Joos Van Cleve, Royal Collection. Source: Wikipedia

Although Henry VIII is famous for abandoning, beheading and divorcing his wives it seems he didn’t enjoy ‘goodbyes.’ Each of his marriages ended suddenly, without discussion.  In most instances he simply left the palace, mounted his horse and rode away. End of relationship. End of marriage.

His battle for a divorce from Katherine of Aragon, his wife for more than twenty years, was a protracted affair, ending with Henry breaking his ties with the Pope and the excommunication of England from the Roman Church. By the time he finally removed himself from the marriage, he was already committed to Anne Boleyn. For months the king and his two ‘wives’ had lived in a sort of Ménage à trois with Catherine trailing in the wake of Henry and Anne. But in June 1531 Henry and Anne rode away from Hampton court, leaving the queen behind. For a few weeks the couple visited several hunting lodges with Anne playing the part of consort. It had long been Catherine’s habit to write to Henry every few days when they were apart, enquiring after his health but this time her letters also expressed her regret that he had not bid her farewell when he departed. Henry’s response was pitiless, informing her he ‘cared not for her adieux.’ Catherine’s reply illustrates admirable restraint but Henry didn’t not bother to answer; instead she received a letter from the Council which, for the first time failed to address her as ‘Queen.’ A further order demanded that she remove herself to The More in Hertfordshire, and ordered the Princess Mary to go to Richmond. Henry was not only abandoning Catherine but also their daughter Mary, who was never allowed to see her mother again.

Henry’s marriage to Anne was very different his first. Whereas Catherine had turned a blind eye to the king’s romantic indiscretions, Anne treated the matter very differently. This made his marriage to Anne a roller coaster ride of arguments, fights and reconciliations. There are, and always have been, plenty of marriages like this, so it wasn’t necessarily a sign that they were no longer in love. Since their life together was peppered with disputes, when Anne fell out of favour in May 1536 she had no reason to suspect that it was any more than another tiff. But, after signing the order for her arrest, Henry refused to see or communicate with Anne again. It is tempting to wonder if things would have turned out very differently had she been given the chance to talk her way out of it, as Henry’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr, did in the final years of his reign.

Jane Seymour has always been described as the ‘one he loved best’ yet when she died they had not been married long enough for him to tire of her and since she had just provided the longed for heir she was in high favour at the time of her death. He does seem to have grieved longer for Jane than any other of his wives and did not remarry straight away but we don’t really know if that was the case. Henry delayed his planned departure to Esher by several days while Jane lay on her deathbed and Cromwell was told, ‘If she amend (recover), he will go, and if she amend not, he told me this day, he could not find it in his heart to tarry.” (David Starkey in Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII  p. 608) In other words, Jane’s death did not interfere with the king’s itinerary but perhaps it is wrong of us to expect it to have. Jane died at 8pm on the same day this message was written. We do not know if Henry was with her but it is unlikely.
I have always questioned Henry’s love for Jane. We tend to think that because he was still in love with her (or at least had not yet found a replacement) he must have loved her more than the others. But, suppose she had survived, who is to say whether or not he would have tired of her and found an excuse to rid himself of her?

I think we are safe to assume Henry had no love for his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. Before the marriage had even taken place, Henry wanted an end to it. He raged to his councillors that she did not please him but hampered by the political ties of the union, he was trapped, like a caged lion. The wedding went ahead and the honeymoon night was reputedly a disaster. All over London jousts and celebrations were under way but the king was far from happy. Before the bells had stopped ringing he was already paying court to Catherine Howard at the home of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester in Southwark. ‘Anne herself probably understood little of the political storm which raged round her and of which she was the all-too passive cause. She was shrewd enough, however, to notice the King’s attentions to Catherine Howard, and, on 20th June, complained vigorously about them to the Cleves agent in London, Karl Harst. Two days later, she was in better spirits, because Henry had spoken to her kindly. It was the last time she saw him as her husband.” (Starkey) Ordered to leave the court and take up residence at Richmond Palace, Anne was not made aware of the king’s decision to reconsider the marriage until July. Although she was often at court after the annulment, Anne and Henry did not meet again until after the separation was legally finalized.

Catherine Howard, as we all know, was accused of adultery and treason. As sad as it is, the charges were probably just. The legend of the little queen running screaming for Henry along the corridors of Hampton court sound as if they are straight from the pages of fiction, and they probably are but the image is a powerful one. For Catherine, coming at the end of a long line of dispatched spouses, there can have been little doubt as to her fate. But, if the story is true, it was a futile attempt to reason with the king. Henry had already fled. Hurt and humiliated, the king lost no time in leaving. On the 5th of November, on the pretext of hunting he ‘dined in a little pleasure-house in one of the parks around Hampton Court. Then, under the cover of night, he left secretly for London.’ (Starkey, p. 671) Catherine never saw him again. After her death, the Spanish ambassador described Henry as suffering ‘greater sorrow and regret at her loss than at the faults, loss of divorce of his preceding wives.’ (Starkey. P. 685) The picture of an ageing broken king mourning his faithless bride is touching but it has to be said his sorrow was more likely to have been of the self-pitying kind.

Katherine Parr, Henry’s last queen, was a scholar and a reformer, publishing books and entering the male world of theological debate. This, together with her influence over the ageing king, won her enemies among the conservative faction. Just as with several of her predecessors, moves were made to bring her down. It is possible that Katherine was just too clever, perhaps she irritated Henry with her polished arguments, perhaps she reminded him just a little too much of Anne Boleyn. Whatever the reason, after several years of marriage, Henry came to resent her and this provided her enemies with the opportunity they needed. When Henry complained, in Gardiner’s presence, of the nature of the queen’s conversation Gardiner lost no time in convincing the king to agree to turn against her. Her women were questioned and her books seized, and the queen was to be arrested and sent to the Tower. Luckily for Katherine, a sympathiser got wind of the plan and tipped her off. Katherine went straight to the king but had the sense not to remonstrate with him outright. Instead, when the subject turned to religion, she pretended ignorance, preferring to ‘defer my judgement in this, and all other cases, to our Majesty’s wisdom, as my only anchor Supreme Head and Governor her in earth, next under God.’  (Starkey. P.763) When he questioned her honesty, she went on to claim that she had only ever disputed with Henry to take his mind from his pain, and to try to learn from his own great wisdom. His ego salved and his faith in women restored, Henry and Katherine kissed and made up. Wriothesley came to arrest Katherine while she and Henry were walking in the garden but when he drew out the warrant Henry furiously berated him, calling him a knave and a beast. Wisely, Wriothesley fled the royal presence. On this occasion the queen remained in the King’s favour but as Henry’s health began to deteriorate the couple spent more and more time apart. Henry spent his last Christmas in London, while Katherine was at Greenwich.
He died in January 1547, without saying ‘Goodbye’ to the queen.

 



Judith Arnopp is the author of award winning historical fiction. Her novels are written from the perspective of historical women from all walks of life, prostitutes to Tudor queens. Her non-fiction articles feature in various historical anthologies, magazines and historical blogs.

Connect with Judith:

Webpage: http://www.judithmarnopp.com
Author page: author.to/juditharnoppbooks
Blog: http://juditharnoppnovelist.blogspot.co.uk/
twitter@juditharnopp

 

The Queen’s Seal: Isabella of Angoulême, Guest Post by Erica Lainé

Isabella had a gold matrix, or seal-die, which was used to make her seal as Queen of England. The seal is the wax impression; the matrix is used over and over again to make the impression. Isabella’s seal is oval as all medieval queen’s seals were, and shows the full length queen standing with her hair flowing, a cross with a bird above it in one hand and a lily in the other. Each of these are symbols of purity and also fertility. At that time, once married, a woman could not be shown with her hair down or indeed uncovered. The other side would have shown her crowned but I have never seen that and suspect it is badly damaged. The wax impression was threaded onto the parchment documents with strips of ribbon or cord. The gold matrix is about 1 1/2 inches long and just under an inch wide and would have been stored in a special pouch or richly embroidered bag. The one illustrated is from 1280 and is the seal bag for Edward 1st, her grandson.

Queens generally did not seal in matters of state but restricted the use of their seals to their own affairs and the disposition of their often considerable wealth. However while Queen of England between 1200-1216, Isabella rarely used her seal and she did not have the wealth usually given to a queen. King John treated her in a mean-spirited way! But when she returned to France she used it always. She also had a smaller, more personal seal that she kept with her at all times. All the records of her using the seal show that it was pressed into green wax, not the red that is so often associated a with wax impression.

The gold matrix is in the archives in Angoulême a tangible connection with Isabella of Angoulême, Queen of England

She stamped the letter with her great seal, and there she is standing, facing front, robed and crowned, her hair falling in ringlets around her face. In her right hand she holds a flower, in her left a bird. Isabella, by the grace of God, Queen of England, Lady of Ireland. Isabella, Duchess of the Normans, of the Men of Aquitaine and of Anjou.

 

Isabella of Angoulême (The Tangled Queen Book 1)

Set in the thirteenth century, the kingdoms of England and France continue to struggle over territory. King John’s widow, Isabella of Angoulême, Queen of England is ignored and unwanted by the English court. She moves back to France to claim her inheritance. The English councillors expect her to be biddable to them and to guard these lands for King Henry III, her nine-year-old son.

But in the Poitou, a region far from Paris and London, local fiefdoms ignore all forms of authority.

The Tangled Queen is the story of Isabella’s determination to forge her own powerful domain. She has to face forceful men who would stop her at every turn. She intrigues and plots to make her dream a reality and she learns to play all sides against each other. Isabella’s second controversial marriage is one full of passion, pride and politics. Treachery becomes second nature as her ambitions soar. She must be unassailable.

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Isabella-Angoulême-Tangled-Queen-Book-ebook/dp/B079NSY9J4

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Isabella-Angoulême-Tangled-Queen-Book-ebook/dp/B079NSY9J4/

 

CONNECT WITH ERICA:

Website: https://ericalainewriter.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaineEleslaine

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ericalaineauthor/?ref=bookmarks

Interview with Kevin E. Green, Narrator for Heir To A Prophecy

Have you ever wondered what a narrator goes through when recording an audio book? I certainly did, and my narrator, Kevin E. Green has been kind enough to answer a few questions posted by my interviewer Mark Schultz, the WordRefiner who many of you probably know. I added in a few questions, myself!

MERCEDES:

How much time does it take to produce an average hour of audio?

KEVIN:

The first recording can take around twice as long as the finished product, so that’s about 2 hours per hour finished. Then comes editing which takes another two hours, then mastering (getting the levels right for ACX) another 10 minutes, and finally proof listening of the finished file to make sure I’ve not missed anything – extraneous noises, incorrect pauses, so that’s around 5 hours per finished hour, plus the hour I take to read the book first (essential!)

MERCEDES:

How do you make corrections? Do you have to start the whole section over or can you insert short phrases?

KEVIN:

When recording I use what is called ‘punch and roll’ which most narrators use.  It enables me to stop the recording when I make a mistake, roll the cursor back to the phrase/sentence before the mistake and hit record again. This enables me to record the correct version over the top of the mistake.   When editing the finished file, I use a different DAW (digital audio workstation) for editing only.  It’s easier to edit in this one than the recording DAW.  I can re-record any mistakes in a separate file and copy them into the master file.    It can be tricky matching the voice tone though, so it can take several takes before the sound matches the original.  Funnily enough, it’s easier to match an accented character than my main narration voice, as that can change slightly over the course of a chapter (especially if it’s a long chapter).  Very occasionally I can slot a single word into a phrase, depending on pauses within the phrase.

MERCEDES:

What is the ideal chapter length for an audio book?

KEVIN:

I think the ideal chapter length (for me anyway) is around 20-25 minutes.  Any longer than that and my voice can start to go off – especially if there is loud dialogue or heavy accents in the chapter, as that can begin to make my throat sore.  Straight narration with no accents is a lot easier, 40-50 minutes before I start to feel it.  I don’t like taking a rest halfway through as my natural voice can change slightly.

MARK:

Kevin, have you always wanted to do this type of work? How did you get started being a voice actor? What is the term you use if that is not correct?

KEVIN:

Well, I started actually recording audiobooks a few years before I took early retirement from work, but I always loved reading aloud to my two sons when they were young. I read Lord of the Rings in its entirety twice, once for each boy as they were 5 years apart in age, doing all the voices.
I started recording for Librivox, the public domain free site which volunteers record for fun. It’s a great site to learn the craft. Then I moved on to Audible/ACX for Amazon and started making a little money, and I am now on Bee Audio and Findaway Voices books as well. And yes, voice actor is the correct term.

MARK:

Librivox sounds very interesting. What steps should a person take who wants to learn the art of voice acting? What advice would you give to someone who has a desire, but no experience?

KEVIN:

If someone wants to start in narration, they should have some acting experience to start with. After that, a voice coach would be good, and then plenty of practice on Librivox where you can learn a lot about techniques and the technology required to record a good quality recording. There is a website called Gravy for the Brain which is an excellent resource and has a lot of teaching resources for voice over actors, including mentoring. Becoming a good voice actor/narrator is not quick or easy and has a steep learning curve when it comes to the technology, and making a reasonable living at it is a long way down the line.

MARK:

You are on Audible, Bee Audio and Findaway Voices. For an author, what are the primary differences they should be aware of between these platforms? What are the differences for a voice actor?

KEVIN:

Yes I am on all three platforms, but ACX is my main source of work. The difference between them is that ACX offers up titles which any narrator can audition for, whereas the other two rely on the author to select a voice from the various narrators’ voice samples on their websites. The narrator then gets offered the book if selected without having to audition. Unfortunately 95% of their work is in the US, so we in the UK get very little work from them. After a narrator is reasonably well established, there are also repeat books from the same author if the author likes your work. This can bypass the ACX audition system as well, and just goes straight to production.

MARK:

Is it hard to create different voices?
What kind of clues do you look for to guide the creation of a voice?
How do you keep your voices straight?
Do you make yourself an audio cheat sheet?

KEVIN:

Yes it can be tricky to create different voices.
The most problematical is where there are a number of similar characters (gender, age etc) in the same scene, and trying to make each voice distinct from the others – there is only so much one set of vocal chords can do!
I tend to have a stock of around a dozen voices which have evolved over the years and I use those in most books. Other voices I have to make up and try to fit them to the type of person I see in my mind, unless the author has been very generous and described the physicality and geographical origin of the character, and even better how their voice sounds! Females are difficult obviously, but I have a passable low register female voice which I can notch up in tone to give a different character. Books with three sisters are a nightmare!
I keep an audio file of about 10 seconds of each voice which I keep on hand to constantly refer to as characters change in the dialogue. I don’t mark up the scripts with different colors as some narrators do, as I don’t find it a lot of help, and it’s very time consuming. I might just as well use that time to re-record passages if necessary.
Just as an example, Mercedes’ recent book that I recorded ‘A King under Siege’ had 38 main characters, and nearly as many incidental characters who only had a few lines. When you get half a dozen in a council meeting for instance, it takes a long time to keep referring back to the audio file to make sure you’re using the correct voice for each character. ‘Heir to a Prophecy’ wasn’t as bad, as there were only about a dozen main characters, and fortunately a lot of them were either Scottish, Welsh or French as well as English which helps a great deal in using distinctive and identifiable voices..

MARK:

How many hours a day and in one stretch can you do voice acting?

KEVIN:

On a good day, I spend about 4-5 hours in my recording booth. Around half of those will be actual recording. I can manage about 1-1/2 hours solid speaking before my voice starts to go off. A couple of hours rest and I can probably do the same again. Fortunately most chapters aren’t that long, and I take about an hour of recording for a finished half-hour chapter. The rest of the time is spent on editing, mastering and then proof listening to the final file.

MARK:

What kind of equipment do you use for recording?
What equipment should a beginner buy to get started in the business?

KEVIN:

I use an Audiotechnica mic, model 4040, and a Presonus audio interface, a Studio 26. They plug into a standard microsoft PC.
A beginner could get going at a basic level with a laptop and a USB mike, using the free software Audacity. That’s how I started (not a laptop in my case, the PC). It’s pretty much down to budget. A USB mike would cost between £50 and £100 and if you’ve got a laptop or PC that’s all you need. Obviously a quiet space – some people use a cupboard lined with coats or blankets to deaden the sound. As you get better you can upgrade to a more professional setup like mine.

For the full interview with Word Refiner, click HERE

Heir To A Prophecy Sample Audio Link:

 

Macbeth and the Gunpowder Plot

Gunpowder Plot Conspirators, Contemporary engraving, National Portrait Gallery, Source: Wikipedia

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the link between Shakespeare’s famous play and the event that nearly shook England’s ruling class to its knees. The Gunpowder Plot was a carefully planned event with thirty-six barrels of gunpowder stashed under the House of Lords in order to blow King James and his government sky-high. Most fortunately—as the story goes—it was foiled by a last-minute letter to Lord Monteagle warning him not to attend Parliament the next day. A timely search of the basement exposed Guy Fawkes and his stockpile before he had the opportunity to apply the fuse. England celebrated its miraculous escape from disaster, and the king’s men went after the conspiracy with a vengeance.

What did this have to do with Shakespeare? Well, as it turns out, Warwickshire was a hotbed of conspirators, and some properties near Stratford-Upon-Avon had been leased to provide a meeting house for the plotters. Worse than that, the town was full of closet Catholics known as recusants—and Shakespeare may have been one of them. A search of the properties in question revealed a hoard of forbidden Catholic paraphernalia—or “massing relics”, as they were called. William Shakespeare, unfortunately, was distantly related to some of the plotters themselves and had business relationships with others. Talk about guilt by association!

Macbeth consulting the vision of the armed head, by Henry Fuseli. Source: Wikipedia

Since we know next to nothing about Shakespeare, we can only speculate about his motivations. But I suspect appeasing the king might have been on his mind. Not so coincidentally, less than a year after the gunpowder plot we see the first performance of Macbeth, demonstrating the consequences of killing a king. Shakespeare also gives a nod to James’s lineage—Banquo was recognized as the ancestor to the Stewarts—as well as a reference to witches—a theme close to the monarch’s heart. It was commonly thought that diabolical agents were responsible for the most evil of human activities.

But that’s not all. Renowned Shakespearean historian James Shapiro tells us that a discovery during the gunpowder plot investigation introduced a new word to the English lexicon: equivocation. Actually, the word wasn’t new; it was just redefined and “had become a byword that transfixed the nation and suffused the play he was writing”.1 The government badly needed a scapegoat—a leader—and they found him in the guise of Jesuit Superior Henry Garnet, who had written a treatise advising Catholics how to lie under oath during interrogation, while seeming to tell the truth. It was a play on words extraordinaire.

A diligent search of the Inner Temple in London had uncovered this amazing manuscript, with a crossed-out title: “A Treatise of Equivocation” which had been changed to “A Treatise of Lying and Fraudulent Equivocation”. Here, too, the word “of” was crossed out and changed to “against”, but no one was fooled; the authorities had, in their hands, a how-to guide for evading prosecution. For example, “You could deny that you were harboring a priest by saying that the priest ‘lyeth not in my house,’ since he wasn’t telling lies there.”2

Anonymous portrait of Friar Henry Garnet, Source: Wikipedia

Whether the treatise had anything to do with the gunpowder plot was irrelevant; Garnet apparently knew about the conspiracy and kept silent. This was good enough, and so much better than prosecuting a handful of disgruntled Catholic gentry. Now the detested fingers of the Jesuits were all over the plot, and the treatise took on a major role in the legal proceedings. The word equivocation had gone viral, so to speak, and a high-profile trial of Garnet himself ended in the inevitable conviction of treason.

In Macbeth, as Professor Shapiro tells us, “Equivocation permeates the play”.  The witches equivocate when they tell Macbeth he shall be king—not informing him that he will need to kill in order to get the crown. And of course, later on, they equivocate, telling him he should never be vanquished ‘till Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. Macbeth equivocates to his wife, not telling her that Banquo’s heirs will be kings rather than his own. He equivocates when he kills the guards, then again when he hires Banquo’s murderers. Lady Macbeth equivocates when she tells the banquet guests that “my lord is often thus” after they watch him shriek at an empty chair. Even Lady McDuff equivocates, pretending to her son that his absent father is dead. But the most telling aspect of all is the porter scene, in which the word equivocate is used over and over again:

Knock, knock! Who’s there, in th’ other devil’s name? Faith, here’s an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale, who committed treason enough for God’s sake yet could not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator.” 

The word is used five times by the porter and later, once by Macbeth. There’s no doubt that equivocation truly is the byword this time around, made even more interesting that it is only used once in all Shakespeare’s plays written before Macbeth.

As he often did, Shakespeare wrote his play in response to concerns pervading London society. A fear of unseen forces was very real to his contemporaries, and Macbeth would have struck a chord in the unsettled atmosphere pervading King James’s court. One wonders what the playgoers might have thought when passing underneath the severed heads of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators, while crossing London Bridge from Southwark on their way home.

1  Shapiro, James, THE YEAR OF LEAR, SHAKESPEARE IN 1606, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015, p.156
2  ibid, p.158

Christmas in the time of the Vikings

Odin the Wanderer, by Georg von Rosen, 1886 from the Swedish Poetic Edda (Source, Wikipedia)

Yule celebrations are Pagan in origin and came from the Germanic countries. They were alive and well in the Nordic lands, and were most likely brought over to Anglo-Saxon England with the Viking settlers. Eventually, the midwinter celebrations merged with the Christian festival of Christmastide, better known as the 12 Days of Christmas. I think we would recognize many of their festivities, although some of them were dedicated to Odin!

Since the Yule (or Jul) took place around the Solstice, the shortest day of the year, there is a certain element of celebrating the return of the light. It is said that the name Yule is derived from the Old Norse HJOL, meaning ‘wheel,’ to identify the moment when the wheel of the year is at its lowest point, ready to rise again. But it was also thought that in this time of year, the spirits of the dead most commonly crossed over into the human realm. It is thought that many of the Yuletide customs were an attempt to protect the household against hostile supernatural influences. On the other hand, it is also said that ancestors came back during this season, and sometimes food was left out for them so they would help promote a good harvest the following year. Some of the spirits were benevolent—but not all.

One night stood out from the others—the 24th of December. This is when the children filled their shoes with straw, carrots and sugar lumps and set them out by the fire to feed Odin’s flying eight-legged horse Sleipnir as the God led the Wild Hunt—the host of the restless dead—through the darkness. In return, Odin would leave the children small gifts and sweets as a reward. He was even known to slide down the chimney! Or fire hole, as the case may be.

The Wild Hunt by Johan Wilhelm Cordes, Museum Behnhaus Drägerhaus, Lubeck, Germany (Source, Wikipedia)

Many tales were told of the Wild Hunt. Because winter nights were often stormy and turbulent, Odin was most likely to be heard then, raging and howling, riding to collect the fallen, whether they be living or recently departed. People—especially children—were warned to stay indoors. It was a terrible thing to witness the Wild Hunt; rumors abounded that people seeing the Wild Hunt might be abducted to the underworld or to the fairy kingdom—or even killed. A gift—or rather, a sacrifice—was advised, to thank Odin for taking care of the family’s recently deceased. In 1673, Johannes Scheffer (The History of Lapland) wrote “All the Bits they have preserved for these two Days, they put in a small Chest made of the Bark of Birch, in the shape of a Boat, with its Sails and Oars; they pour also some of the Fat of the Broth upon it, and thus hang it on a Tree, about a Bow Shot distant from the backside of their Huts”. Perhaps this represented the practice of ship burials, though no one really knows the exact purpose of this ritual.

Yule is a time for feasting, dancing, and family. The traditional food of the Yule was Boar, an animal sacred to Freyr, the Norse God of Yule and fertility. This was probably the origin of the Boar’s Head presented at later Christmas feasts. Then we have the Yule Log. The largest ash—the wood of Yggdrasil—log was brought inside so that ritual runes could be carved onto it, calling on the gods to protect one and all from ill-fortune. Burning the Yule log was thought to give power to the sun and bring warmth again to the land. The carved log was sprinkled with mead and decorated with dry sprigs of pine and cones and as it was lit, musicians plucked the strings of their harps and started the singing. It burned for twelve hours, which brought good fortune for the next twelve months.

Odin riding Sleipnir. From the 18th century Icelandic manuscript. Source, Wikipedia

Outside, evergreens would be decorated with small lanterns and candles, plus crackers, little carved statues of gods, pieces of dried fruit, and even berries strung together. A huge bonfire was lit, reportedly to dispel any evil that was marching abroad. There was dancing around and through the bonfire, especially among the youngsters.

It’s pretty commonly assumed that Odin the Wanderer eventually morphed into our Santa Claus. The old legends came in many forms, one of which was Odin on a chariot pulled by goats (who later became reindeers). Or, possibly, his eight-legged Sleipnir was the precursor to reindeer (naturally, from the North). Odin who was the lord of Alfheim, the home of the elves (Santa’s elves?). The comparisons go on and on. How much of is true?

Thomas Mowbray, Bolingbroke’s adversary

Richard II makes Thomas Mowbray the Earl Marshal, BL Cotton MS Nero D VI, f.85r.

Considering that Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham (and later 1st Duke of Norfolk) participated in almost every major event of Richard II’s reign, it’s surprising that he’s been given so little attention by historians. It is evident that Thomas had a checkered career, in favor then out of favor then back again until his final outlawry. He is often depicted as a slippery character, though it’s not clear whether he was motivated by ambition, jealousy, or was he driven by circumstances? It’s hard to say, considering how difficult it was to maintain one’s equilibrium during Richard II’s tempestuous reign.

Orphaned at age two, Thomas and his elder brother John were  brought up in the royal court alongside future rival Robert de Vere (another ward). All became close friends with Prince—soon to become King—Richard. John died in 1383, passing on the title Earl of Nottingham to Thomas, who was elected knight of the Garter in the same year. Two years later he was granted the title of Earl Marshal for life. Not bad for a nineteen year-old. He even had an apartment all his own at Eltham, the royal palace—reserved, naturally, for high-ranking nobles.

Nonetheless, trouble was brewing. Robert de Vere had managed to capture Richard’s affection and Thomas was increasingly left out. Rather than fight a losing battle he went over to the opposite court faction and married Elizabeth, the daughter of Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel. I would assume he couldn’t have found a wife more calculated to alienate the king, though Richard did “distribute liveries of cloth to the earl’s wedding guests in 1384” (1). Nonetheless, Mowbray’s  association with Arundel put him squarely in the Lords Appellant camp, just in time to march against Robert de Vere who was attempting to bring a force from Cheshire to protect the king against his rebellious nobles. Alas, de Vere was no general and his army made a pitiful showing at Radcot Bridge, eventually surrendering with very little loss of life. Robert fled to the Continent; that thorn in Mowbray’s side was removed forever.

Robert de Vere fleeing Radcot Bridge, from Gruthuse Froissart, BN FR 2645, fol.245V

By then, Henry of Bolingbroke (future King Henry IV) had joined forces with the Lords Appellant, making their number five. After Radcot Bridge the victors confronted King Richard in the Tower, forcing their agenda down his throat and threatening to depose him. Cowed after three days’ isolation in the Tower, the king agreed to call parliament. It met in January of 1388, ushering in the worst year of Richard’s life.

Bolingbroke and Mowbray, the junior Appellants, mainly kept quiet during the Merciless Parliament, only asserting themselves against their elders when it came time to condemn Richard’s beloved vice-chamberlain, Sir Simon Burley. By now, the Merciless Parliament had become a bloodbath and the senior Appellants knew that unless their purge was total, the survivors would demand retribution. Too bad for them that the king himself would take on the mantle of avenger ten years later.

But Richard had noted Mowbray’s reticence and decided to bring him back into the fold. In 1389 he made Mowbray Warden of the East March toward Scotland; later Thomas became Captain of Calais and royal lieutenant in the north-east of France.  He accompanied the king to Ireland in 1394 and was credited with many successful assignments;  he even came within a hair’s breadth of capturing Art MacMurchadha abed with his wife. Shortly thereafter, Mowbray went to France to negotiate a truce and Richard’s marriage to Princess Isabella.

But Mowbray’s uneasy favor with Richard was sorely tested in 1397 when the king launched his tardy retribution against the senior Lords Appellant. Conniving with his new affinity of noble supporters (including Mowbray), Richard initiated a new Appeal against Gloucester, Warwick, and Arundel. Capturing Warwick was easy; the king invited all three to a formal dinner and Warwick was the only one who showed up. A polite, entertaining evening ensued, at the end of which the king ordered the unwary Warwick’s arrest. Immediately afterwards, Arundel was persuaded to give himself up. Richard dealt with Gloucester in person. Collecting a large retinue including Mowbray, the king rode all night to Gloucester’s Pleshy residence, dragging the sick duke out of bed and arresting him as well. Gloucester was placed into Mowbray’s charge and taken to Calais where he was imprisoned in the castle.

The king was adamant; he did not dare appeal Gloucester in person in front of parliament. Politically, that was too volatile. But he needed proof of the duke’s guilt relating to the Merciless Parliament of 1388. A lot of suspicious activities took place in Gloucester’s prison under the unwilling direction of Thomas Mowbray, Captain of Calais. Eventually a confession was extracted from the duke, and shortly thereafter a sullen Mowbray announced before parliament that Gloucester was dead. No further explanation was forthcoming and after the confession was read Gloucester was condemned as a traitor in absentia. But naturally rumors abounded and Mowbray was implicated beyond a doubt.

After the Revenge Parliament, as it came to be called, the king created a slew of dukes to reward his supporters—sneeringly called “the duketti” by contemporaries. Even Mowbray was created Duke of Norfolk. But it wasn’t enough to reassure Thomas. After all, he was one of the five Appellants; now that the king was finished with the instigators he was bound to cast his vengeful eye on the remaining two. From then on, Thomas feared for his own life and stayed away from court as much as he could.

The Challenge of Mowbray and Bolingbroke from Froissart Chronicles, BnF ms. Francais 2646, fol.295

But he finally broke under the stress. In December that same year, Mowbray caught up with Bolingbroke on the road to London. He wasted no time in getting to the point. “Henry, we are about to be undone!” he is said to have declared. When Henry asked him why, he replied, “for what was done at Radcot Bridge”.(2) Pretending astonishment (or was he pretending?) Bolingbroke objected: look at the honors Richard showered them with; they had all received pardons. But Mowbray believed none of it. He even told Henry there were men plotting the destruction of him and his father. He hoped Henry would help devise a plan for their mutual defense.

But poor Mowbray had badly miscalculated. Far from allying himself with his former Appellant, Bolingbroke made a report to the king (or he told his father who went to the king). Then followed a series of accusations and denials, counter-accusations and further denials. Unable to settle this argument amicably, the court of chivalry decided on a trial by combat. It was to be the event of the decade. Held at Coventry, the tournament was attended by knights from as far away as France, and the two challengers went to great lengths to acquire the very best and most expensive armor and trappings. But all was for naught. As depicted by Shakespeare, as soon as Mowbray and Bolingbroke started their charge, King Richard threw in his baton and halted the fight. After discussing the matter with his council, the king declared that Bolingbroke would be exiled for ten years and Mowbray for life.

It was a devastating decision for the Duke of Norfolk. He took his leave shortly thereafter with a small retinue, forbidden to make any contact with Bolingbroke—not that he was very likely to. One wonders if he would have been recalled to England after Henry became king, but we’ll never know. He died in Venice just a year later, somewhere around the 22nd or 27th of September in 1399—just a few days before Richard was forced to abdicate. His young son, another Thomas, was not permitted to assume his father’s titles and soon involved  himself in political turmoil, finally joining the ill-fated revolt of Archbishop Scrope in 1405, where he was beheaded alongside the prelate.

  1. “The Politics of Magnate Power” by Alastair Dunn, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2003, p. 40
  2. “Chronicles of the Revolution 1397-1400” by Chris Given-Wilson, p.86

Who—and What—were the Lords Appellant?

Arundel, Gloucester, Nottingham, Derby, and Warwick, Before the King Source: Wikimedia

When I first bumped into the Lords Appellant I was confused because as far as I knew, an appeal was filed after a court conviction in an attempt to reverse the decision. But as it turns out, in the fourteenth century an appeal was the starting point—an indictment or an accusation against someone, initiating a legal procedure. What made the case of the Lords Appellant so special was that this was the first time the appeal was introduced into Parliament; up until then, it was used in common and civil courts.

When you see the words Lords Appellant capitalized, it refers to those involved in the first legal crisis of Richard II’s reign. Their case was against Richard’s friends, counselors, and officers who were accused of giving the king bad advice—misleading and deceiving him. Most historians agree that the Appellants were driven by resentment, ambition, and dissatisfaction. Here they were, some of the most powerful magnates in the realm, shut out of Richard’s inner circle. No influence with the king, no power, no opportunities to reward their retainers—all these obstacles put them in a bad position. However, they weren’t powerful enough to go after Richard directly; there was no popular swell of discontent as in the case of Edward II. The second best solution was to eliminate the king’s despised supporters and get him under their control.

The only person that stood between the Appellants and the king was John of Gaunt, the eldest surviving son of Edward III and a stickler for protocol. However, in 1386 when he sailed for Spain to pursue a crown of his own, his absence left Richard exposed to his enemies. They immediately went on the offensive and the young king was too inexperienced to know how to deal with them. Nonetheless, the Lords Appellant had a problem. If they went through the courts, the rulings wouldn’t be permanent enough. The only way to completely destroy their enemies, take away their titles, lands—even their lives—and dispossess the heirs was through Parliament. Not only were their motives questionable, but the whole process had no legal basis from which to act, and the Appellants were forced to make up the rules as they went along, twisting the system to accommodate their self-serving objectives.

Woodstock receives King Richard from Froissart Chronicles BL MS Harley 4380, f.117

The driving force behind the Lords Appellant was Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester (the youngest son of Edward III). One would think that the king’s uncle would not be his worst enemy, but Gloucester was a bitter, aggressive man. He reminds me of John Lackland because he, too, came out on the losing end of land distribution after all his siblings were taken care of. He only became duke two years before all this unpleasantness started, and even so he was dependent on the exchequer for his revenue. If it weren’t for his wife, one of the great Bohun heiresses, he would have had nothing at all. His only hope of prominence would have been from the French wars like his brother the Black Prince and his father Edward III; but here, too, the king disappointed him. There was to be no major campaigning in this reign, and Gloucester became the spokesman for warmongers amongst his peers. As the Appellants gained the upper hand, Gloucester even went so far as to put himself forward as a possible replacement (after having deposed Richard), but young Henry of Bolingbroke put an end to that scheme. There were stronger claimants to the throne, himself included.

Richard Fitzalan, from Froissart Chronicles, Getty MS Ludwig xiii, fol.311v.

In almost total accord with Gloucester, Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl of Arundel was a stout collaborator. He was an experienced, if unexceptional warrior and served under John of Gaunt, mostly as admiral. Although he won brief popularity by sharing a year’s worth of wine with all of England at rock-bottom prices (from 100 captured Flemish vessels), his brusque and overbearing personality made him few friends. From the beginning of Richard’s reign he was on the council of regency, and in 1381 he was appointed co-councilor in constant attendance upon the young king, ironically alongside his future victim Michael de la Pole. Although Richard warmed up to Michael he found Arundel detestable, which I suspect contributed to the crisis.

Thomas Beauchamp (Luminarium.org)

The third original Appellant was Thomas de Beauchamp, 12th Earl of Warwick. He was the son of the famous Thomas Beauchamp known for his bravery at Crecy and Poitiers. Rather mediocre and undistinguished, Thomas never lived up to his father’s reputation. But he was, after all, a noble from a great family and hence valuable as an ally. He pretty much went along with everything Gloucester said and didn’t rock the boat.

The three Appellants originally appealed five of Richard’s supporters: Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk and chancellor of England, Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford and Richard’s closest friend, Robert Tresilian, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, Sir Nicholas Brembre, wealthy London magnate and former Mayor, and Alexander Neville, Archbishop of York. After the Lords Appellant made their formal appeal, Richard arranged for Neville, de la Pole, and Tresilian to slip away, and secretly sent Robert de Vere to Cheshire to raise an army to defend him. Brembre stayed put, certain of his innocence, and sought to gain support in London for the king (he paid for that with his life).

Once the Appellants discovered that de Vere was putting together an army, the last two “junior” members came on board. Henry of Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby (son of John of Gaunt and the future Henry IV) posted himself at Radcot Bridge and succeeded in blocking de Vere from crossing the Thames; the royal army dispersed after a brief and pathetic battle and de Vere escaped over the Channel. Why did the non-political Bolingbroke join the Appellants? He later claimed he needed to protect this father’s interests. It’s also difficult to discover the motives of Thomas de Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, 1st Duke of Norfolk (great-great grandson of Edward I and son-in-law to Arundel). He could have been driven by jealousy of Robert de Vere, who supplanted him in Richard’s esteem. His early friendship with the king had definitely cooled, especially after he married Arundel’s daughter; I imagine his father in-law put pressure on him to join the party of resistance. These last two Appellants tended to take a back seat, so to speak, and never wholeheartedly agreed with all the knavery that attended these trials. Nonetheless, they were committed and so the three became five.

Queen Anne Intercedes for Sir Simon Burley, from A Chronicle of England (Source: Wikimedia)

From besieging the king in the Tower of London to the Merciless Parliament of 1388, the Lords Appellant pursued a bloody campaign against the king’s supporters, culminating in the outrageous execution of Sir Simon Burley, Richard’s vice-chamberlain and lifelong mentor. (By then they had gone way beyond their initial condemnations.) Bolingbroke and Mowbray publicly objected to Burley’s conviction, as well as the Duke of York, Gloucester’s brother; even Queen Anne got on her knees and begged Gloucester for Burley’s life, to no avail. In the end, eight of Richard’s supporters were executed—for no good reason. Three more fled to permanent exile, and over forty others were ejected from court (some returned later as Richard took back his authority). The king was reduced to a figurehead and withdrew to lick his wounds. For one year the three original Appellants tried to run the government their way (Bolingbroke and Mowbray had lost interest by then), but it soon became obvious that they were doing no better than before. Worse, actually: it was under their watch that the disastrous Battle of Otterburn was lost and Henry Hotspur taken prisoner along with his brother Ralph. Their ransom was a huge hit to the already depleted exchequer, which had been obliged to pay the Lords Appellant 20,000 pounds to reimburse them “for their great expenses in procuring the salvation of the realm and the destruction of the traitors”.

When Richard declared his majority in 1389, he was able to take over and dismiss his enemies without a protest. But, though Richard was obliged to “forgive and forget” on the surface, in reality his anger festered for ten years until he was strong enough to wreak revenge on the men who humiliated him.

You can read more about the Lords Appellant in my novel A KING UNDER SIEGE.

Manorial Courts Guest Post by April Munday

British Library MS Royal 2.VII

The manorial courts were one step up in law enforcement from the tithings that we looked at last week. Each manor had a court and the court governed the lives of everyone who lived on the manor, even determining when they could plant and when they could harvest. It fined them if they allowed their animals to stray onto the lord’s demesne, and it was where they took their claims against one another to be judged.

The manor was made up of the lord’s demesne as well as the land that he leased to tenants. The demesne was the farm that the lord kept for his own benefit.  The people who worked the manor’s land were both freemen and serfs (cottagers, smallholders or villeins). The manorial court dealt with the serfs’ issues, while the freemen were able to go to other courts, which we’ll come to later.  It was also able to create new bylaws for the manor.

Some lords had more than one manor and could not look after all of them closely, or they were away at war or absent for some other reason. The manorial court was one of the ways in which the manor could be managed whether the lord was there or not. He had a steward, who looked after his interests in his absence, but it was the village officials (reeve, hayward and beadle amongst others) who made sure that things happened as they should.

The manorial court decided the land boundaries and the days on which animals could graze in the fields. The steward presided over the court, but the village elected the officials from among themselves. The steward could not tell the court what to do and the court could appeal to the lord if necessary. Usually the business transacted by the court had no direct reference to the lord’s own affairs since it dealt with village problems such as loans not being repaid; men not turning out to work on the lord’s demesne; theft; the erection of a fence in the wrong place; or one villager injuring another.

The court was run by the rich villeins who provided the jurors and officials. The court was supposed to meet every three weeks, but some met less often. All the serfs in the village had to attend. Those who did not were fined. The court was often held in the nave of the church, the part that ‘belonged’ to the village. There were not many places in the village large enough to hold the court and many were simply held in the open air, often in the churchyard. Some manorial courts met in the hall of the manor house itself.

The jurors pronounced judgement on their fellow villagers (and occasionally on the lord) and this was sometimes put to the rest of the village as well for their assent. When making a judgement they had to take into account what they knew of the law, the customs of the manor and the manor’s bylaws. All the jurors and everyone else in the court knew both parties in every case that was brought before them, which was supposed to make it easier to come to a correct judgement. The system of justice was mostly based on the way in which society worked. People lived in small communities where everyone knew everyone else’s business and character. If you, as a villein, were asked whether your neighbour, Peter, had stolen from another neighbour, John, you would know the characters of both men and could assess whether John was making a false claim against Peter or whether Peter was a known thief. You did not have to have seen the (alleged) crime take place in order to be able to work out what had happened, nor did you need any evidence.

Villagers had to pay a fee to the lord get their case heard. The lord of the manor benefited from any fines issued by the court and the court was often the source of a large part of the lord’s income. The manorial court also required payments to the lord on all kinds of occasions – death, inheritance and marriage all had their appropriate fee. When these things happened part of the lord’s land was transferred from one person to another and the fee was to obtain the lord’s permission for that transfer. The court could generate a lot of income for the lord, and fines and fees tended to increase after the Black Death when there were fewer tenants to pay rents. The steward’s clerk recorded the cases and any fines or fees. As well as fines which went into the lord’s coffers, the court could also award damages to be paid by the guilty party in a case to the injured party.

One of the commonest cases to come before a manorial court was the accusation that someone was selling ale before it had been tasted by the ale taster. Ale was brewed at home and sold to the neighbours, who came to the brewer’s house to drink it. The ale taster’s rôle was to ensure that a consistent quality and price were maintained.

It is thanks to the surviving manor court rolls that so much is known about everyday life in the Middle Ages in England. What they show, however, is the things that went wrong and not the things that happened exactly as everybody thought they should.

 

Sources:

England in the Reign of Edward III – Scott L. Waugh

Medieval Lives – Terry Jones

Life in a Medieval Village – Frances and Joseph Gies

Making a Living in the Middle Ages – Christopher Dyer

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England – Ian Mortimer

 

APRIL MUNDAY is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

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Ill Prepared for war: Shortages, the Fencibles and fear of revolution over here! Guest post by Dominic Fielder

I’ve found that it’s easy to misjudge history, to confuse timelines from the relative luxury of the twenty-first century because we know the outcome of events in the nineteenth. When I started research for a series of books called the King’s Germans, I felt certain of both the timeline and the narrative. But research has that uncanny knack of unseating you. A story that flowered in 1808, was firmly planted in 1803. But the seed of the story was set in 1793. By 1808, Napoleon has conquered the major powers of Europe, except Russia and Great Britain. With the former, he has a treaty and a framework for co-operation, or at least non-aggression. With Great Britain, his intention is to turn the British blockade into a continental blockade of British trade. The French army numbers hundreds of thousands of men, with an array of experienced and highly capable leaders. And of course, Napoleon himself! So far, not too radical a narrative.

But this is not the world of 1793. Then the fledgling republic that declares war on Great Britain and every other royal house in Europe is hardly united. It does have a large army, men forced into uniform by the Levée en masse. John Lynn (The Bayonets of the Republic) suggests that the volunteers of 1792 gave the French around 275 battalions, a field strength of 220,000. By February 1793, manpower is estimated between a paper-strength of 450,000 and worse case estimates of 290,000. But how does this affect Great Britain? Again, that firmly held conviction that I had before research was of the unquestioned superiority of the Royal Navy. As I sat and read Fortescue’s British Campaigns in Flanders, the narrative was rather different. The fleet was under tremendous strain, policing Great Britain’s global interest. Manpower was the most crippling deficiency, despite the greatest efforts of the press-gang.

The influx of émigrés saw the formation of communities in Marylebone, Richmond and St. Pancras. The government’s response to the threat of spies and revolutionaries embedding themselves within London, was the Aliens Act, 1793. Immigrants had to provide their names, ranks, occupations, and addresses. Anyone who shared a room or house with an immigrant was also required to do likewise. Failure so to do was to risk being held without the prospect of bail and the possibility of deportation.

The wider debates on the very essence of society and rights were popular and real arguments. Edmund Burke had expressed the fears of the gentry in his essay Reflections on the revolution in France, an essentially conservative treatise condemning the revolutionaries. It sold well, with some 30,000 copies going into circulation. The rebuttal, by Thomas Paine, both defended the revolution and set out costings for welfare for the poor and the means to educate over one million children. At the time the population of the United Kingdom was estimated at around eight million. It’s also estimated that after the initial printing of the Rights of Man were withdrawn in February 1791. A new printing, in March of the same year, was estimated to have sold around a million copies. Paine was tried in his absence for sedition and sentenced to death by hanging. He declined the invitation to return from France and meet such a fate.

How were the fear of invasion and the possible treachery from within were to be avoided? The answer was in the expansion of Fencible units, where the gentry were encouraged to raise infantry and cavalry formations, for the protection of the homeland. Life as a Fencible had certain advantages, a man was exempt from both the press-gang and drafting into the army. Thus, the estates of many landed estates were preserved of their workers and the sons of the nobility received military half-pay and pension safe from the prospect of ever been posted abroad. The ire that Fortescue directs to the obvious junket is worth reading. There was at least one case of an individual claiming a lieutenant’s half-pay for over sixty years. Nineteen thousand men were drafted into militia and Fencible units in 1793, according to Fortescue.

The net result for an army destined for the continent was that only one brigade of two thousand men, drawn from the Foot Guards, was available for deployment. A second under Major-general Abercrombie was being prepared but these were so awful that the Adjutant-general wrote to the Duke of York and to Abercrombie to apologise.

“I am afraid that you will not reap the advantage that you might have expected from the brigade of the Line just sent over to you, as so considerable a part of it is composed of undisciplined and raw recruits; and how they are to be disposed of until they can be taught their business I am at a loss to imagine… I was not consulted upon the subject until it was too late to remedy this evil.”

Such a letter shows the deep division between Horse Guards and Dundas, the War Minister. It exposes the fault lines over which the Duke of York was to attempt to exercise control of his army and a strategy to successfully conclude the war, with no firm indication of what such war aims might look like.

The Black Lions of Flanders
(King’s Germans Book 1)

In the war of the First Coalition, friend and foe know one simple truth: trust your ally at your own peril.

February 1793.

Private Sebastian Krombach has joined the army to escape the boredom of life in his father’s fishing fleet. Captain Werner Brandt yearns to leave his post and retire into civilised society and Lieutenant Erich von Bomm wants nothing more than to survive his latest escapade that has provoked yet another duel. Each man is a King’s German; when they are called to war, their lives will become inextricably linked.

The redcoats of the 2nd Battalion, 10th Regiment, must survive the divisions that sweep through their ranks before they are tested in combat. On the border of France, the King’s Germans will face an enemy desperate to keep the Revolution alive: the Black Lions of Flanders.

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The King of Dunkirk
(King’s Germans Book 2)

May 1793: The French border.

Valenciennes, Paris then home! Every common soldier knows the popular refrain so why can’t the commanders see sense?

The protracted siege of Valenciennes exposes the mistrust between the allies. National interests triumph over military logic. The King’s Germans find themselves marching north to the coast, not east to Paris. Dunkirk has become a royal prize, an open secret smuggled to the French, who set a trap for the Duke of York’s army.

Lieutenant Erich von Bomm and Captain Werner Brandt find themselves in the thick of the action as the 14th Nationals, the Black Lions, seek their revenge. In the chaos of battle, Sebastian Krombach, working alongside Major Trevethan, the engineer tasked with capturing Dunkirk, must make a dreadful choice: to guide a battalion of Foot Guards to safety across the Great Moor or carry a message that might save the life of a friend.

The King’s Germans and the Black Lions do battle to determine who shall be crowned the King of Dunkirk.

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AUTHOR BIO:

The King’s Germans is a project that has been many years in the making. Currently I manage to juggle writing and research around a crowded work and family life. The Black Lions of Flanders (set in 1793) is the first in the King’s Germans’ series, which will follow an array of characters through to the final book in Waterloo. The King of Dunkirk will soon be released and I hope that the response to that is as encouraging as the reviews of Black Lions have been.
While I’m self-published now, I have an excellent support team that help me to produce what I hope is a story with professional feel, and that readers would want to read more than once. My family back-ground is in paperback book sales, so I’m very keen to ensure that the paperback design is something that I would be proud to put on my bookshelf.
I live just outside of Tavistock, Devon, where I enjoy walking on the moors and the occasional horse-riding excursion as both inspiration and relaxation.

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