Category Archives: History of Great Britain

This looks at Great Britain from 1042 on. At the time of writing it goes up to 1470 if I remember rightly and then again from 1485 to 1783 – if I have that right. I need to close that gap at the end of Wars of the Roses. It focusses chiefly on England because that is the most populated part of the British Isles and the fulcrum of British politics. Moreover the King of England for most of this time was also the overlord of Ireland – whatever title was used varied from time to time. Likewise Wales was a dependency upon the English Crown. Scotland was a vassal state of England for some of this time, a fully sovereign kingdom for some of this time and in union with England for some time. I look mainly at high politics.

The Indian Independence Movement




British India and the Princely States

By the end of the 19th century the whole of India was either directly or indirectly under British control. Back then India consisted of what we now call Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as what is now the Republic of India.

About two-thirds of India was British India. This meant provinces under direct British control. The British Army was there and so were British officials.

Around a third of India was made up of princely states which were under indirect British control. There were over 600 princely states. The princely states were ruled by Indian rulers.  There were many different titles for the ‘princes’. They had titles such as rajah, maharajah, gaekwar, khan and nizam. Therefore they were known as ‘princes’ to simplify it. Some princely states were very small: just a couple of square miles. The largest of them was Hyderabad which was the size of France. Most princely states were in between in terms of size. A prince would rule his state. The state would pass from father to son. A prince could do as he wanted within his state so long as he did not cause problems for British India. The prince had to agree to only have foreign relations via the United Kingdom. That means that a princely state could not set up an embassy in China or invite an ambassador from Italy. No, the British would conduct foreign relations on behalf of all the princely states. Princely states were allowed to have their own armies.

At that time India was over 60% Hindu. The Muslims comprised 30% of the population. There were small numbers of Sikhs and Christians. The Muslims were concentrated in the very west of the country (today’s Pakistan) and the very east (today’s Bangladesh).


  1. 19th century India is which three modern countries?
  2. What is a princely state?
  3. What proportion of India was British India in the 19th century?
  4. What was the second largest religion in India?
  5. What is the main religion of India?

Poverty and progress

Although India was British ruled of the 200 000 000 people in India at the time only about 200 000 were British. The majority of government were workers were India. But the top ranks were filled by Britons.

There was also an Indian Army. But all the officers were white British. The ordinary soldiers were Indians. Many Indians felt it was unfair that Indians could not even be officers in the Indian Army. Back then British meant ‘white’. These days there are many British citizens of Indian ancestry. There was no British citizenship as such back then. Anyone from anywhere in the British Empire was a British subject. A white Briton, a Nigerian, a Jamaican, an Indian or a New Zealander were all British subjects. Likewise in the Indian Police the ordinary policemen were Indians. The top ranks were reserved for whites. Indians resented this racial discrimination.

By the end of the 19th century the British Empire had reached its zenith. A third of all the land in the world was under British rule. It was said that Britannia ruled the waves because the Royal Navy was bigger than the second largest navy plus the third largest navy put together. The UK was a mighty manufacturing country but it had already been overtaken by the United States and Germany. They were manufacturing more than the UK.

India was very much an agricultural country at the time. There were only a few factories at the time. Most people were farmers. Many people dwelt in grinding poverty. At the time India was growing economically. But little wealth trickled down to the majority of the people.

In the 19th century most people around the world never went to school. Most people were illiterate. Only about 20% of people in India were literate at the time. The UK had only just brought in compulsory schooling in 1870 and the UK had still not achieved full literacy. This compulsory schooling law did not apply to India.

The British Government sent a viceroy to India. The viceroy ruled on behalf of Queen Victoria because she was so far away. The viceroy lived at Kolkata which was then the capital of India. The viceroy was a British aristocrat sent out from the UK to India. He served for a few years and was then replaced. Every few years a new viceroy came out.

In the British Cabinet there was a man who was the Secretary of State for India. He was answerable to the British Parliament for Indian affairs. But India had no representation in the UK Parliament. The Government of the UK could appoint and sack the viceroy of India. The people of India had no say over this.

  1. What did many Indians find objectionable about the rank structure in the Indian Army?
  2. Was the British Empire powerful at that time? (Five sentences)
  3. What was the most common job in 19th century India?
  4. Why were most people unable to read at the time?
  5. What was the title of the British official sent to govern India?
  6. What was the capital of India then?

Conceit and conciliation

Many Indians were impressed by the British who were the world superpower at the time. This did not mean that all Indians liked British rule by any means. It is difficult for the mighty not to be haughty. Some Britishers were arrogant and looked down on Indians. Indians tended to complain about heavy taxation and say the Britons were growing rich due to these taxes.

Indians looking into their own history saw that long before India had been far ahead of Europe in Mathematics and astronomy. Emperor Ashoka had introduced human rights and abolished slavery. But India had fallen behind and been overtaken.

There were famines in India. The British authorities in India said they were trying to improve farming. They set up an Agricultural Department. It was supposed to encourage more modern methods of farming with better use of fertiliser and smarter animal husbandry.  Irrigation canals were dug. Stores of grain were set up for distribution in times of failed crops. Famine relief was a responsibility of the British Government of India. But the government was failing in its duty when so many starved. The British authorities urged people to grow non-comestible crops such as cotton and opium. Opium is a very dangerous drug. Under British rule it was legally sold in India, in the UK, China and other places.

In 1885 the viceroy made the fateful decision to establish Congress. Congress was an organisation for Indians to examine how the British authorities were governing India and to provide constructive criticism. At first Congress and the viceroy got along well. Congress was simply giving advice about where it felt the British authorities could do better. The principle of British rule was hardly ever questioned.

Since the 1830s education in India had shifted to the British model. Persian was abandoned as the major language of education and the courts. Instead English was adopted. Many Indians learnt to read and write their vernacular languages such as Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali and so forth. But after learning their mother tongue they started to learn English.

Newspapers were published in India in various languages. A system of telegraph poles transmitted news and personal messages. The mail system established by the British authorities helped to forge a sense of national identity by allowing people to correspond and send gifts. India had been united millennia before. But sometimes a centralised Indian state had fallen apart. It had been reunited and disunited several times. The railways built after 1840 had speeded up travel around the country.

By the 1880s there was a small Indian elite that was fluent in English. Oxford University and Cambridge University admitted non-Christians from the 1870s. A tiny number of Indians attended these universities. Only the super wealthy could afford to sail to the UK and pay the huge fees for these tip top universities. The Indian elite was exposed to British notions of parliamentary government. The UK boasted that its institutions were the envy of the world. By the 1880s most men in Britain had the right to vote. Parliament discussed the problems facing the nation and voted on solutions. Some Indian elitists were attracted by this and wanted to introduce similar institutions in India. The British authorities did not like that idea one bit. Indians looked back in their history and saw that at time India too had had representative institutions. By this time there was a miniscule Indian community in the United Kingdom. They started to enter UK politics.

In 1893 an Indian named Dadabhai Naoroji was elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom as a Liberal. He was hailed in India for his achievement. A few years later another Indian named Mr Bhownagree was elected to the UK Parliament. He was a Conservative. Bhownagree was so enthusiastic for British rule in India that some Indians scornfully called him ‘bow and agree.’

By the 1890s Congress was pressing the viceroy for further reforms. Many Indians were living in poverty and the British authorities were not doing enough about it. Britishers who served as civil servants and soldiers in India invariably retired to the UK. Their pensions were paid by India. This money left India and was spent in the UK. Congress called it ‘the drain’. India’s wealth was being drained away.


  1. What was ‘the drain’ according to Congress?
  2. When was Congress founded?
  3. Why is Dadabhai Naoroj so famous?
  4. Why did many dislike Bhownagree?
  5. How was India more advanced that Europe in the ancient times?
  6. What were the failings of British agricultural policy in India? Five marks. 
  7. What effect did exposure to British institutions like Parliament have on the Indian elite? 

Moderation and militancy

In the 19th century Indians emigrated to other British colonies such as South Africa, Uganda, Kenya and Malaysia. One of those who went to South Africa was Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi was a London educated lawyer. Gandhi objected to racist discrimination against Indian in South Africa. His protests got him imprisoned in South Africa. His brave campaigning was reported in Indian newspapers.

By 1900 Congress was becoming an irritant for the viceroy. It was no longer a genteel organisation of a few thousand highly educated rich men. It had several thousand members and was growing rapidly. In 1900 a new viceroy arrived from Great Britain. He was Lord Curzon. Lord Curzon disliked Congress . He saw it as a trouble making organisation and wanted it to dissolve. He dared not ban it because he knew it was popular. It was an important way of allowing Indians to let off steam about their grievances.

The early 20th century saw the rise of militancy. Some Indians rejected British rule totally. They had no time for the polite discussions that Congress had with British officials. Some Indians did not want reform. They wanted revolution. A handful of radicals decided that the British Raj could not be redeemed. It could only be destroyed! These radicals accused the British of killing millions of people through famines.

In Bengal some Indians killed British officials and police officers. Only a very small number of Britishers were killed. But the news was extensively reported. British rule was not seriously threatened by these attacks. Congress said it deplored this use of force against the British. The British authorities denounced those who killed their men as ‘terrorists.’ The aim of killing these British policemen and officials was to drive the British out of India. The radicals believed that British rule was totally bad. Congress still believed that British rule was mostly good but partly bad.

Congress welcomed Indians of all religions and all languages. Some Muslims in Congress said that Muslims were a special community that had particular concerns not shared by other Indians whether Hindu, Sikh or Christian. The Muslims asked whether they could set up a special section of Congress called ‘the Muslim League.’ Congress agreed. The Muslim League was established as an organisation inside Congress.

Bengal was a province which had about equal numbers of Hindus and Muslims. Some of the Muslims wanted the province to be divided into East Bengal  with a Muslim majority and West Bengal with a Hindu majority. The British authorities considered the request.

Eventually Lord Curzon agreed that Bengal would be split into two provinces. Most Bengali Hindus were aghast. They considered Bengal to be a nation. They did not want it broken up. Not all Bengali Muslims wanted it divided either. There was a furious row in Congress over whether Bengal should be divided or not. The majority of Congress was against it. However, the Muslim League was in favour. The disagreement was so fierce that the Muslim League broke away from Congress. From that time on Congress and the Muslim League were two rival parties. Congress became an overwhelmingly Hindu organisation. However, Muslims were welcome in Congress and a few remained in Congress. The Muslim League was only for Muslims.

Congress agitated so strenuously against the partition of Bengal that the British authorities changed their mind. They decided that Bengal would not be divided into two provinces after all. The Muslim League was then angry that they had been let down by the British Government of India.  It foreshadowed later controversies.


  1. Who became viceroy in 1900?
  2. Why did Curzon dislike Congress?
  3. Why did he not outlaw Congress?
  4. Why did some Indian radicals shoot British officials and police officers in Bengal? Five marks. 
  5. What was the special section of Congress for Muslims called?
  6. What happened with the idea of dividing Bengal

The First World War

In 1914 the First World War broke out. The British Empire was a single entity in international law at the time. When the UK declared war that instantly meant that the whole empire was at war.

Up until that time the UK had won all of its wars for decades. The British had not sustained serious casualties in a war for a century. But the First World War was different. The United Kingdom was fighting a country even more industrialised than the UK. The Germans had better military technology. The British were being given a run for their money. The UK was suffering high casualties. Germany had other countries on its side such as Turkey and Austria-Hungary.

Indians had fought in Britain’s overseas war for over a century by 1914. Indians fought alongside the British Army in France, Iraq, Turkey and Palestine.

Some Indians donated money to the British war effort. The princely states usually sent their armies to help the British.

Congress urged Indians to do their bit for the war effort. Gandhi was one of those who called upon his countrymen to support the British war effort. Congress was dissatisfied with the British Raj. Nevertheless they perceived some benefits to being part of the empire. They believed that one good turn deserves another. By helping the British they believed that the the British authorities would agree to major reforms after the war.

Congress looked at the dominions of the British Empire. Canada, Australia and other countries were dominions. A dominion elected a parliament and had a prime minister. A dominion was internally self-governing. It still had diplomatic relations via the United Kingdom. It was part of a military alliance with the rest of the empire and had free trade with the empire. Congress was India to become a dominion. But the British authorities would not say yes to this. Some in Congress muttered that the British were racist. Australians and New Zealanders were allowed to be dominions because most of them were white. Were Indians being denied dominion status because of their colour?

The war dragged on. Over 100 000 Indians were killed. Congress pressed the viceroy to announce serious reforms to be introduced immediately after the war. The British authorities gave non-committal answers. Why would London make clear statements on reform after the war? Congress began to fear that the UK had no intention of introducing proper reforms.

Some people in India grumbled about fighting the First World War. Why should Indians fight Germans? The Germans had done nothing bad to India? Indians were being used as cannon fodder for the good of Britain. Indian Muslims objected to fighting the Turks because the Turks were Muslims too. Taxes were increased to fund the war. Some Indians worked with German agents on a plan to cause an uprising in India and bring about independence. In fact the plan never achieved any success. The Germans did not care about Indian independence. They just wanted to cause problems for the British.

During the First World War Indians were finally allowed to become officers in the Indian Army. Military colleges were opened for them.


  1. When the UK declared war what effect did this have on India? 
  2. Why was Germany so difficult for Britain and her allies to defeat?
  3. Why did Congress ask Indians to support the war effort?
  4. Did the British agree to serious reforms in India during the war? 
  5. Why did some Indians think that they should not support the war effort? Five marks. 
  6. What was a dominion? Five marks.





Richard III





One of the most reviled kings of England is Richard III. He has come to symbolise treachery and cruelty. But is he unfairly maligned? Some say that this king has had a very unfair press.

Richard III was born in Fotheringhay Castle in the year 1452. This castle lies in Northamptonshire. The castle is also the place where Mary Queen of Scots was executed in 1587. It subsequently fell into disrepair. If you visit it now you will see that scarcely stone stands upon stone.

The Duke of York was the father of Richard III. The duke’s name was also Richard like his son. Richard III had an elder brother Edward IV and a younger brother George. He also had a younger  sister named Elizabeth.

The Plantagenet dynasty ruled England at the time. Richard III was one of that family. When he was born a mentally ill monarch was on the throne. He was Henry VI.

The Hundred Years War was drawing to a close. The King of England Henry VI was supposed to be King of France as well. His maternal grandfather was Charles VI of France. However, most French people did not accept Henry VI as the rightful King of France. His uncle Charles VII fought against him. The deranged Henry VI was incapable of ruling one kingdom let alone two. The English were being defeated. Heavy taxes had been levied to pay for the war. As Henry VI was so raving made that he could not rule the country his unpopular wife Margaret of Anjou sometimes had to take control. In 1453 the English finally admitted defeat. They gave back all of France save for the town of Calais. The king’s stock was very low.


Looking back to the mid 14th century there was a king named Edward III. He had five sons. One of these sons died without having children. But the remaining four all had children. The descendants of these four sons divided themselves into two hostile camps: the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. This is because the Duke of Lancaster was the leader of the Lancastrians. The Duke of York was the leader of the Yorkists. If there were four sons how come there were only two sides and not four? This is because sometimes cousins got married. The Duke of York had that title because he own lots of farmland around York. Likewise the Duke of Lancaster owned lots of farms near Lancaster. Most people were farmers back then because there was very little technology.

Richard III was the great-great-grandson of Edward III. That was why he had a claim to the crown.

The Duke of York wanted to control the government. His idea was that he would let Henry VI retain the title king but that the Duke of York would be effectively in charge. When Henry VI died his son Edward of Westminster would not become king. Instead the kingship would pass to the Duke of York. The Duke of York was distantly related to Henry VI. Both were direct descendants of Edward III who died in 1377.

The Lancastrians were those who did not want Henry VI’s to be effectively the plaything of the Duke of York. They also insisted that when the king died the crown pass to his son.  The Yorkists wanted Henry VI to be controlled by the Duke of York.

One of the key figures at the time was Richard Neville. He had the title the Earl of Warwick. He was known as ‘kingmaker Warwick’. Whichever side he joined won.

In 1455 fighting broke out between Yorkists and Lancastrians. The fighting continued on and off until 1485. In 1455 Richard III and his family fled to the Netherlands.

Richard, the Duke of York died. His eldest son Edward V became Duke of York and leader of the Yorkists. In 1460 Edward IV returned to England with his younger brother Richard III and the rest of the family. They, the Yorkists, defeated Henry VI who fled to Scotland. Edward IV was then proclaimed King of England. He was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey.

Edward IV gave his brother Richard III the title Duke of Gloucester. Duke is a high noble title not far below king. There were only a dozen dukes in the whole of England. Richard III suffered from scoliosis. This caused a slight curvature of the spine. Some people said this was a sign of his wickedness. People were very prejudiced against the disabled back then.

Richard III married kingmaker Warwick’s daughter Anne Neville and they had children. Anne Neville was also his second cousin.

Edward IV’s other brother George was granted the title Duke of Clarence. Edward IV later found out that his brother George had begun a secret correspondence with the Yorkists. George was planning to join their side. When Edward V discovered this treachery he was executed on the order of Edward V.

In 1470 Henry VI’s supporters gathered a mighty army. They beat the Yorkists. Henry VI came back from abroad and was made king once more.

The Yorkists then regrouped and defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. The 17 year old Edward of Westminster was slain in the battle. Henry VI was taken prisoner. He was held at the Tower of London. Henry VI was killed there.

Edward IV was king again. He was married and had two sons Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury.



On 9 April 1483 Edward IV died of an illness. His son Edward V was declared to be king. The king was only 12 at the time and his younger brother was 10. Richard III was made Lord Protector of the Realm. It was his duty to rule on behalf of his nephew. Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury lived in the Tower of London. The coronation of Edward V was planned for 22 June.

Two months after Edward V became king he and his brother vanished. How on earth could this king disappear? Hundreds of servants and soldiers lived in the Tower of London. It was the most closely guarded building in the realm.

Richard III then announced that Edward IV had not been properly married to Elizabeth Woodville. She was the mother of Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury. Therefore these boys had no right to inherit any title from their father. Richard III further announced that the coronation would be going ahead only four days behind schedule and he would be the one who was crowned.

On 26 June 1483 Richard III was duly crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He seemed strangely unperturbed about the whereabouts of his nephews. If your uncle was looking after you would you expect him to be concerned about your welfare? The king made no attempt to find his nephews. The two boys were known as The Princes in the Tower.

Richard III traveled around the country. He donated to Cambridge University. He also founded the College of Arms.

Richard III’s son then died of an illness. A rumour went around that the Princes in the Tower had escaped to Ireland. Some say there were murdered and buried in the Tower of London. Years later an investigation concluded that the two boys were smothered on the order of their uncle Richard III. In the 17th century two skeletons of boys aged about 11 were found buried under a staircase in the Tower of London.

The Lancastrians were stirring. There was a Lancastrian claimant named Henry VII. He was living in Brittany at the time. This is a French peninsula. Henry VII gathered an army. The King of France lent Henry VII some troops. He was in touch with some people in England and Wales who were discontent with Richard III.

In July 1485 Henry VII set sail. He landed in Wales. He was partly Welsh and received a cordial welcome. Many Welshmen rallied to his banner. He marched into England. More men joined en route.

Richard III was informed of the invasion. He mustered his army. He marched towards the threat.

The Stanleys were a powerful noble family in the English midlands. They had many soldiers. Richard III ordered them to bring their men to join his royal army. The Stanleys mustered their men but they did not unite with the royal army.

Henry VII drew up his men a few miles west of Market Bosworth. This is in Leicestershire. Richard III approached from the east. The Stanleys had men to the north and to the south.

The Yorkists took George Lord Strange as a hostage. He was the 9 year old son of Lord William Stanley. Richard III warned that Stanleys that if they did not come over to his side then Lord Strange would be killed. The Stanleys did not come over to Richard III. The king ordered the boy to be put to death. However, his order was disobeyed.

On 22 August the Battle of Bosworth commenced.  The Stanleys came in on Henry VII’s side. If they had not done so the outcome would have been different. Richard III was killed and his army routed. He was the last Plantagenet king. His body was stripped and carried on a horse into Leicester. It was displayed for three days. People saw his corpse. Henry VII wanted people to see the carcass. They would recognise Richard III. Then people would be sure that he was dead. Henry VII did not want a rumour getting around that his mortal enemy had survived. Richard III was then buried in a monastery called Greyfriars. There he lay for over 500 years.


Richard III’s reputation has been fought over for centuries. A hundred years after his death the playwright William Shakespeare wrote a play entitled Richard III. In this play Richard III is the villain of the piece. He is depicted as two-faced, wicked, vain and cruel. Richard III has gone down in history as the archetypal bad guy. In the play he is called ‘Gloucester’ for much of the story. That is before he became king he had the title the Duke of Gloucester. The Shakespeare play is highly fictionalised. When Shakespeare wrote the play Elizabeth I was on the throne. She was descended from Henry VII who was a Lancastrian. Therefore Shakespeare curried favour with the queen by demonising Richard III.

In the play Richard III the title character says ‘A bard of Ireland told me once I should not live long when I saw Richmond.’ In this case ‘Richmond’ does not mean the place. Henry VII was known as the Earl of Richmond before he became king. In the Battle of Bosworth Henry VII (i.e. Richmond) came close to Richard III and then Richard III was killed a minute later. There are other factual inaccuracies in the play. It says that George Duke of Clarence was drowned in a barrel of malmsy wine on the order of Richard III. This is totally false. Richard III’s physical disability was much exaggerated by the play.

At the opening of the play Richard III the title character says this soliloquy


Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew’d up,
About a prophecy, which says that ‘G’
Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
Clarence comes.

Some people have tried to rehabilitate Richard III’s reputation. The Society of the White Boar was founded in the early 20th century. It was aimed at improving the image of the king. The name of the society is because the symbol of Richard III was a white boar. The society renamed itself the Society of Richard III.

In 2013 his remains were unearthed in Leicester. DNA proved it was him. He was reburied with pomp in Leicester Cathedral. The current Duke of Gloucester was present. Serendipitously, the current Duke of Gloucester is also named Richard!


  1. In which castle was Richard III born?
  2. What was his year of birth?
  3. Which dynasty was he part of?
  4. What was his relationship did he have to Edward III?
  5. What was Richard III’s title before he became king?
  6. What was the title of his father?
  7. Who was Richard III’s elder brother?
  8. Which country did Richard III flee to?
  9. Who was he married to?
  10.  Did he have a child?
  11. In which year did Edward IV die?
  12. What were Edward IV’s sons called?
  13. What was the collective name for Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury?
  14. Where was the last place that the Princes in the Tower were seen?
  15. Which powerful family joined Henry VII at Bosworth?
  16.  What was the exact date of the battle?
  17. What happened to Richard III at Bosworth?
  18. Where was he buried at first?
  19. What is the evidence that Richard III had the princes in the Tower murdered? Five marks
  20. How good a king was Richard III? Five marks.





Henry II


Henry II

King Henry II was born in England. This does not go without saying. His family had come from France not long before. His father was Count Geoffrey of Anjou and his mother was Queen Matilda. The surname of Geoffrey of Anjou was Plantagenet. Anjou is a county in France that Geoffrey ruled.

Henry II grew up in a time of great upheaval. There was a civil war called the Nineteen Long Winters. His mother Matilda battled her cousin Stephen. The conflict was concluded at the Treaty of Wallingford. It was agreed that Stephen could rule for the remainder of his life. Upon his death the crown would pass not to Stephen’s son Eustace but to Henry II. Some believed that Stephen would renege on the treaty. Even if he did not break it people said that when Stephen died his son Eustace would try to be king.

Within months of the treaty being signed Eustace died of natural causes. Shortly thereafter Stephen died. Henry II became king without opposition. It was 1154.

Henry II wed Eleanor of Aquitaine. This French noblewoman was 12 years older than her husband. She ruled Aquitaine which is southwest France. Henry II then controlled Aquitaine because a man had power over his husband. He therefore ruled England, Normandy, Aquitaine, Anjou and Wales.

The king had another stroke of luck. Nicholas Brakespeare was elected pope. He was and is the only Englishman to be pope. He took the name Adrian IV. Pope Adrian IV issued a papal bull entitled Laudabiliter. This stated that Henry II had the right to take control of Ireland and introduced Roman Catholicism. Ireland had been Christian since the 5th century AD. However, we practised our own form of Christianity and not the Catholic kind.

In 1169 there was a civil war on Ireland.  Ireland was not a united country back then. There were several kingdoms often at war against each other. MacMurrough King of Leinster fled to Wales. He enlisted the help of Strongbow to reclaim his throne. Strongbow was a Norman lord. He had the title the Earl of Pembroke. Strongbow went to Ireland and helped MacMurrough regain his throne. Strongbow wed MacMurrough’s daughter Aoife. A year later MacMurrough died. Strongbow then proclaimed himself to be the King of Leinster.



Felicity lesson 5. Oxford and Cambridge



Oxford and Cambridge


Oxford and Cambridge are usually mentioned in the same breath. These two splendid universities are the most outstanding universities in the United Kingdom. They are among the top ten universities in the world. Oxford and Cambridge are perhaps eclipsed by some American universities but only because the American ones have far more money.

Oxford and Cambridge are the oldest universities in the English-speaking world. Oxford University’s origins are obscure but it certainly existed in some form in the 12th century. In 1355 there was the St Scholastica’s Day Riot. There was much friction between undergraduates and those people in the town who were not connected to the university. On 10 February 1355 an argument over beer started in a pub called Swindlestock Tavern. This devolved into a general brawl. The haughty students were widely hated by the much put upon townsfolk. In the end 66 students were stabbed to death and several townsfolk were also slain. Students and lecturers fled for their lives into the countryside. The King totally took the side of the university. He dispatched soldiers to restore order and protect the students when they returned to Oxford. The Mayor of Oxford was compelled to apologise for the behaviour of the people of the city and pay reparations. The City of Oxford was obliged plead for forgiveness from the University of Oxford for the St Scholastica’s Day Riot and pay compensation every year for the next 470 years.

Some Oxford undergraduates and lecturers never felt safe in Oxford again. They moved off to a swamp called Cambridge. Cambridge University was founded in a town 150 kilometres east of Oxford.

In Oxford and Cambridge they talk of ”town and gown.” The town means those people who live in that place but are not part of the university in any way. The gown refers to students and lecturers because they wear gowns on ceremonial occasions.

Oxford may refer to the University of Oxford or the City of Oxford. In an academic context is plainly means the university. Likewise Cambridge may be used to indicate the University of Cambridge or indeed the City of Cambridge. In a scholastic context it signifies the university.

In Oxford and Cambridge you will hear much talk of ‘dons’. A don is someone who teaches at the university. Don is a slang word but it is respectful. Only a few academicians in the United Kingdom attain the lofty title ‘professor’. No one had this title until the 18th century in the United Kingdom. It is possible for an academic to lecture in a university for their entire career and never gain this high and unusual title ‘professor.’ The other dons have lower titles such as ‘lecturer’.



Oxford is about 70 km from London. The city is slightly bigger than Cambridge. It is perhaps a little more political and more cosmopolitan than Cambridge.

Cambridge is a smaller town. Its colleges are more resplendent than those of Oxford. Cambridge is sometimes said to be a bit better at Science and Oxford is thought to have the edge in the Humanities. Oxford has the largest History Faculty in the world with over 100 academics. You are more likely to find a scholar with an enthusiasm in your favourite topic in History here than at any other university on the planet.

The two universities are really on a par. There is a friendly rivalry between them. They compete in sports against each other. There is much exchange between them. An academic at Oxford might have been an undergraduate at Cambridge. Someone who does Bachelor’s degree at Oxford often goes on to do a Master’s degree at Cambridge.

Visit both universities and form an opinion. Seek guidance from a superb educational consultant.

Take notice of the fact that for undergraduate application you are only allowed to apply  to either Cambridge or Oxford in any single year. However, supposing you apply to Cambridge and you are rejected this year then you are permitted to apply to Oxford next year (or Cambridge again if you wish). This article shall focus on undergraduate admissions.



Oxford is divided into about 39 colleges. Cambridge is also divided into about 40 colleges. A college is like a fraternity or a hall of residence. Each college has its own history, coat of arms, sports teams, chapel, dining hall and so forth. Most colleges do most subjects. It is not the case that each college does a different subject. It is a federal system. A college is like a region and the university is like the federal government.

Colleges do not matter enormously. An undergraduate can make the college matter if he or she wants to. It can be the centre of one’s social life.

Undergraduates are required to live in college accommodation for their first year. Thereafter they can continue to live in college accommodation or rent privately. Not all college accommodation is on the main site. Colleges own buildings around the city.

Some colleges are huge with 600 students. They can have ancient and beautiful buildings. Others are quite small with as few as 50 students and modern with unimpressive buildings. The most magnificent colleges are harder to get into since more people apply. The most opulent colleges in Cambridge are King’s and Trinity. At Oxford the most fantastic colleges are Magdalen ( pronounced ‘Maudlin’) and Christ Church.

Lectures and exams are organized centrally. Supposing someone is read Geography at St Peter’s College, Oxford. He attends the same lectures as someone reading Geography at Hertford College, Oxford. They sit the same examinations. They are awarded a degree by Oxford University rather than the college. The same is true for the colleges of Cambridge University.

College and subject selection greatly influences one’s chances of getting in. St John’s College, Oxford typically has ten applicants per place. Jesus College, Cambridge usually has around nine applicants per place. Bear in mind that most of these applicants are brilliant. There are certain colleges with have rather fewer applicants such as St Benet’s Hall, Oxford or Murray Edward’s College, Cambridge.

Classics only has about three applicants per place likewise Theology does not have many applicants whereas Business normally has twelve applicants per place. Thus a candidate can greatly increase his or her chances of securing a place at one of these illustrious university by applying to an unpopular college for an unpopular subject. Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic is offered at Cambridge. It is known as ‘Asnac’ for short. It has poor job prospects so not many applicants. It is a lot easier to get in for therefore. Law, Economics and Medicine all have superb job prospects so there are many applicants for these subjects. That makes them fiendishly difficult to get in for.

Each college has a number of fellows. A fellow is usually a lecturer at that college. The fellows are part of the governing body of the college. They have a few meetings a year to discuss important matters. Some of the fellows will be the accountant of the college and perhaps some very distinguished alumni. Typically a college will have 500 students and about 50 fellows.

Although every college has a chapel most students are not religious. These colleges were originally religious foundations. The colleges all have a Christian affiliation – mostly Church of England but a few are Roman Catholics. There is no obligation or even pressure to even attend chapel. But the chapel is there with worship at least twice a week for those who wish to attend. There is a chaplain in each college. There is an Orthodox Church in Oxford but it is not connected to the university. Non-Christians have been welcome at both universities since the 1870s. There are Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Atheists in these universities.

There is a friendly rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge. They play sports against each other. The colour of Oxford is dark blue – it is like the blue on the French Flag. The colour of Cambridge is a very light blue – almost turquoise. A match between Oxford and Cambridge is called a ‘blues match’. Someone who represented Oxford or Cambridge at a sport is called a ‘blue’. The top team in any sport for Oxford is called ‘the blues’ likewise at Cambridge their best team in any sport is called ‘the blues’. That is because Oxford will have several teams at rugby, several in tennis, several teams in football etc…

The Varsity Match is a rugby match in December. It is just after the Christmas holidays start. It is played at Twickenham Stadium in London. This is the English national rugby stadium. It is called ‘varsity’ because that is an old slang word for ‘university’. This match is Oxford versus Cambridge.

The University Boat Race takes place on Palm Sunday. That is the Sunday before Easter. This boat race has been going since 1829. It was started by Charles Wordsworth – nephew of the renowned poet William Wordsworth. The race is rowed on the River Thames. They start at Putney Bridge. They row to the west – they are rowing inland. The River Thames is tidal. That means that seawater is coming in. They time the race to start near high tide – the boats are rowing with the flow of the water. This race has been rowed every year except during the First World War and Second World War. Cambridge has won more than Oxford. There was one dead heat in the 19th century – it was a draw because both boats were judged to have crossed the finish line at the same time.

There are eight rowers in a rowing boat. The crew is called and VIII (pronounced ‘eight’). There is also a coxswain. He or she steers the boat and does not row. The coxswain is very small and light. The rowers are very tall, slim and strong. The Oxford 1st VIII is Oxford’s best crew. People call it ‘the blue boat.’ Likewise Cambridge’s 1st VIII is also called ‘the blue boat.’

There is a men’s race and there is a women’s race.


  1. Which country are Oxford and Cambridge in?
  2.  Which university is older?
  3.  What happened in the St Scholastica’s Day Riot?
  4. What do ‘town and gown’ mean?
  5. What is a don?
  6. What is so special about the History Faculty at Oxford?
  7. Which subjects have the best job prospects?
  8. What is the religious affiliation of most of these colleges?
  9. What is a ‘fellow’ in relation to these colleges?
  10.  Do you have to be a Christian to go to one of these colleges?
  11. What is the colour of Oxford?
  12.  What is the colour of Cambridge?
  13. What is a blues match?
  14. What is the blue boat?
  15. How many rowers are there in a rowing boat?
  16. What is a coxswain?
  17. When did the University Boat Race begin?
  18. Who was Charles Wordsworth?
  19. What is the Varsity Match?
  20. Where does the University Boat Race start?
  21. Why are these universities so well known? Five marks.

Irish nationalism is wrong. =================


unhistorical not evil. #

Ireland in 1170s

nationalism ivented 1790s

halcyom age is gaelic era

gaelic revivial. hark back to middle ages like rest of Europe. king Arthur.

noorwegian blood

separatists attempted to unite us with spain, france and germany

#foreign help for IRA. USA and Libya unholy alliance


euro nationalism


Irish nationalism is not immoral. It is merely unhistorical.

Most of what you have read about Ireland’s past is false. Look into the annals. You will discover that when English soldiers first came to Ireland we were not fully independent, united, Irish speaking or Catholic. Nor is Ireland our original language.

Irish nationalism emerged in an identifiable form in the 1790s. It was then led by upper middle class Protestant intellectuals who wanted to copy the French Revolution. The anarchy, internecine fighting and mass executions of the French Revolution might have given them payse for thought. Nonetheless the wish to found an Irish Republic with religious equality was not a totally bad idea. The legal discrimination against the Catholic majority at the time made the Kingdom of Ireland a place badly in need of reform.

In the late 19th century Irish nationalism became Gaelic nationalism. Arlene Foster correctly identified it as such in 2005. Gaelic nationalism is about trying to have our culture preserved in aspic from the 8th century AD. A few centuries when the Gaels dominated are supposed to be the golden age. Like most tales of a gilded age it is largely false. We were deeply divided and almost incessantly at war against each other.  We had no royal dynasty.  Different dynasties tussled for the high kingship every few years. This at least meant a capable ruler came out on top which did not always happen under primogeniture.

Ancient Britons fled to Ireland in the 4th century AD so we are more British than the people of Great Britain. Britannia was a polity at the time. This cannot be compared to British people being German due to Angles and Saxons coming from modern Germany at that time. There was no concept of Germany back then.

All nations are created at some point as Anderson wrote in Imagined Communities. In Ireland there has been an erasure of our Welsh, Scots and English stock.

Gaelic nationalism’s twin engines were the Gaelic League and the Gaelic Athletic. These atavistic organisations harked back to the 12th century. That was before English and Welsh soldiers arrived in Ireland at the invitation of the King of Leinster.

Gaelic nationalism considered Gaelige to be the language of Ireland. Irish is not the original language of Ireland. There was a prior Celtic language before Irish. That Celtic language has been lost and was never written. So much for lingucide. Gaelic nationalists often accused the English of killing the Irish tongue. In fact the Gaels killed the previous Celtic tongue. Does that make Gaels bad?

Gaelic nationalists pretended that everyone in Ireland was  a Gael. There were several waves of immigration and invasion into Ireland before the 12 the century. Ancient Britons fled to Ireland in the 4th century AD. In that sense the people of Ireland are the true owners of Great Britain. The Britons who came to Ireland at the time were running away from the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who attacked Britannia.

The Gaels dominated Ireland for only six centuries but it gives them eternal mastery. 850 years of more recent connection to Wales and England is held to confer no legitimacy at all. Such is the illogic and vindictiveness of the closed minded nationalist.

Therefore many changes had occurred prior to the arrival of Strongbow and King Henry II of England in 1169.  All these changes before the 12 th century were accepted. Everything since 1169 was an abomination according to Gaelic separatists.

Gaelic nationalists stressed Irish unity. They overlooked the historical truth. In 1169 Ireland was divided into several kingdoms that were often at war against each other. There was a high king at Tara. But he had little authority. There was no regal dynasty. The country lapsed into fratricidal war every so often when a king died. These kingly elections were fractious affairs and often bloody ones.

There were Danes in Ireland in 1169 and that had been in Ireland for 300 years. They controlled Dublin. Brian Boru had bested the Danes at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Separatists ignored that this was a very temporary victory. The Danes soon returned.

Irish kings often enlisted Danish aid against each other.

It is the entitlement of any person to believe himself to belong to a distinct nation whether or not this opinion is borne out by historical evidence. Everyone has the right to seek independence for anything they consider to be a nation. That is not to say that every group that calls itself is a nation is one or indeed should be granted independence even if all the members of the same wish for independence.

After 1169 we had many English and Welsh immigrants coming. We also had Scots coming. The Scots were an Irish tribe originally. There was a kingdom that spanned the North Channel.

The Anglo-Normans and the Cambro-Normans who came to Ireland in the 12th century were soon gaelicised. The later Statues of Kilkenny were to forbid this but were soon ineffectual. Even that piece of legislation recognised that in most of Ireland – the Irishry – we were permitted our tongue culture. This law noted that the English and Welsh in Ireland had been absorbed into the native Irish. Therefore those of us who think we are native Irish are not entirely by any means. We are of Welsh, English and Norman stock.

Many Irishmen had gone to dwell in Great Britain. All sorts of people came to Ireland after 1160 such as Frenchmen, Germans, Dutch and so on.

How Gaelic are the Irish really? If we could isolate the Gaelic genes we would srely find that we are only a small fraction Gaelic. The Gales dominated Ireland for only a few centuries until the 9th century. There have been countless cultural memes that we adopted from all the other migrants who arrived in Eire.

In 1600 Sir John Davies wrote that if the people of Ireland were numbered by poll it would be found that few of us were autochthonous Irish.

Gaelic nationalism seeks to suppress all the non Gaelic heritage of Ireland.

The GAA banned people in it from playing garrison sports i.e. anything except for hurling or Gaelic football. At their social functions they had only Irish dancing and music. This is xenophobia.

There is nothing bad about playing Gaelic games. Learning a new language is laudable. Demonising another language – the language of the majority is contemptible.

Separatists in Ireland often accuse the English of invading us in the 12th century. They never accuse the Welsh who were involved too. That is historically illiterate. Moreover, the upper class in England and Wales are largely French at the time. Strongbow was invited in by an Irish king – Dermot MacMurrough. There was a high king Rory O’Connor whom MacMurrough clashed with. Was it wrong for a sub sovereign entity to enlist foreign military aid? Separatists should not think so.

Separatists wanted Ireland to be annexed by other countries. They have engineered several invasions of Ireland. They brought Spanish troops to Ireland in the 1590s.  King Philip II of Spain styled himself King of Ireland due to his marriage to our late queen Mary Tudor. They brought French soldiers to Ireland in the 1790s. They wanted French troops to invade in the late 19th century but it never happened. Some ex soldiers from the US came to Ireland to cause a conflict in 1860s. Admittedly not at the behest of Washington. They wanted German soldiers to attack us in 1916 and in 1940. The Kaiser spoke of ”taking the little place” and mused that he would make his youngest son the King of Ireland. In the 1920s some American ex soldiers were there again causing conflict. Some would have bee happy for the Soviets to invade. A few American ex soldiers joined the Irish republican cause in the 70s.  Separatists have engineered invasions and attempted to engineer invasions several times as adumbrated hereinbefore.

The Spanish troops were not wanted in Ireland in the 1580s. They were massacred at Smerwick. That is on the west coast – the most Catholic and Hibernophone region. There were Pontifical troops too. The Pope send his army and navy in 1588 and they were killed by us.

Had France conquered us we would have been a satellite of France. It might have been ana advance. Bear in mid  France was in conflict with the Catholic Church. Napoleon in time would have placed a sibling on our throne. Independence was not on the cards.




Lady Margaret Bryan


LADY Margaret Bryan – Governess to Queen Elizabeth I.

Lady Margaret Bryan was born in England. Her year of birth was approximately 1468. She came from an aristocratic family. Her brother was Lord Bourchier. She married Sir Thomas Bryan.
When Lord Bourchier died without sons his sister inherited his estates and moveables. This made her a woman of very considerable means.
Lady Bryan’s husband died when she was in her 40s. As a widow she was able to devoted more of her time to the king’s service.
Lady Margaret was the half-sister of Anne Boleyn’s mother.

Henry VIII had a son with his mistress Bessie Blount. This boy was name Henry FitzRoy. Fitz indicated his unwed birth. Roy is derived from ‘roi’ the French for king. Although no one contemplated Henry FitzRoy inheriting the Crown he was still a notable person. Lady Margaret was his governess when he was little.
From 1525 Lady Bryan was governess to Mary Tudor: the eldest daughter of Henry VIII. Lady Margaret was made a baroness as a reward. She did a superb job and the king was deeply satisfied with her. She was highly capable and managed to curry favour with the right people.
In 1533 Henry VIII declared that Mary Tudor was born outside of wedlock. His marriage to Catherine of Aragon was annulled. Mary Tudor was enraged. Her father told her to ”lay aside the name and dignity of princess.”
She refused to accept this and insisted that she was the king’s lawful daughter and heir. Lady Margaret had to manage the teenagers moods and fury. Mary Tudor felt rejected and humiliated. She bore herself with a dignity and defiance than inspired admiration even in her enemies.

At the age of 65 she became lady mistress to the baby Elizabeth. In those times the word ‘mistress’ denoted a woman with authority and not a paramour.
When Elizabeth was three months old she was taken away from her mother. Anne Boleyn had breastfed her baby for the first few weeks and was keen to continue. Henry VIII would not hear of this breach of protocol. The child was put into the care of a wet nurse. The woman really in charge was Lady Bryan. She was not the matronly battleaxe that some might fear. Elizabeth was taken to another royal residence in December 1533. Elizabeth spent most of her time at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.
Anne Boleyn wrote to Lady Bryan very frequently with precise instructions for the child’s upbringing. Lady Bryan carried out her duties sedulously. Anne Boleyn sent her daughter the finest of clothes. The baby was dressed as a tiny adult. This was the way at the time. They made no allowances for children’s need to move more. About 40 pounds a month was spent on garments for Elizabeth. This approximates to 13 000 pounds today! Anne Boleyn seemed to be impelled to confirm her daughter’s legitimacy by making sure always appeared as regal as possible.

When Elizabeth was sent to live at Hatfield House this was also the residence of her half-sibling with Mary Tudor. The 17 year old Mary Tudor naturally resented her baby half-sister. Elizabeth had briefly replaced Mary Tudor in their father’s affections. Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn had brought huge anguish to Mary Tudor and her mother Catherine of Aragon. Although Elizabeth spent most of the time at Hatfield House they sometimes moved to Greenwich Palace. Greenwich is now considered part of London. In those days it was a small port several miles from London.
Around this time Lady Bryan married for a second time. She wed David Soche. She was well past childbearing age so there was no chance that she was going to have a baby of her own to distract her from her job.
Anne Boleyn’s voluminous instructions also laid stess on the need to degrade Mary Tudor. Anne Boleyn emphasised that Mary Tudor was a bastard and had no right to inherit the Crown nor any right to style herself princess. Anne Boleyn’s volatile temperament was notorious. It would be foolish to provoke her. Lady Bryan had to walk a tightrope. She had to keep her mistress Anne Boleyn content because she was the queen. On the other hand it felt deeply wrong to insult Mary Tudor. It was plain that public sympathy was very much on Mary Tudor’s side. Too much aggravation in the family would make for a poisonous atmosphere.
Anne Boleyn’s spitefulness and pettiness did her no credit. She had enough enemies to begin with. She boasted how she would have Mary Tudor serving her as a maid. Her vindictiveness merely earned her more enmity. Anne Boleyn’s outbursts of furious shrieking made her deeply unpopular. Perhaps Lady Bryan was canny enough to see that Anne Boleyn’s haughtiness and mean spiritedness was setting her up for a dramatic fall. That was why it would have been unwise for Lady Bryan to carry out her order to humiliate Mary Tudor with too much zeal.
Lady Bryan’s son was Sir Francis Bryan. He spent much time at court. He knew a youngish woman from an aristocratic Wiltshire family named Jane Seymour. It was possibly due to Sir Francis that Jane Seymour came to the attention of Henry VIII. Henry VIII was infatuated with Jane Seymour. There is little doubt that Sir Francis Bryan kept his mother Lady Margaret Bryan informed of developments. The more the king fell for Jane Seymour’s feminine wiles the weaker Anne Boleyn’s situation became. That was why it would not do to be too closely associated with Anne Boleyn and her cruel treatment of Mary Tudor. Jane Seymour was canny enough to coquette with Henry VIII but she would not yield to her maidenhood. She parried his amorous advances with protestations of maidenly virtue.
Lady Bryan was also a regular correspondent of Lord Chancellor Thomas Cromwell. The lord chancellor was the king’s most important minister. Thomas Cromwell was no friend of the Boleyn family. Lady Bryan may well have been in the know about Anne Boleyn’s coming fall from grace.
Lady Bryan believed in expediency. She encouraged Mary Tudor to be kind to her half-sister. It was not the child’s fault. She tried to persuade Mary Tudor to accept her new diminished status. Mary Tudor was stubborn and held out for a long time. She eventually gave in and appeared to agree that she was downgraded. Her submissiveness caused her father to look more generously on her.
Lady Bryan had to supervise Elizabeth been weaned and put ont dry food. She of course received many very detailed orders from Anne Boleyn about how to do this. Lady Bryan had brought up her own children, grandchildren and royal children. She had vastly more experienced that Anne Boleyn.
When Elizabeth was two years and eight months old disaster struck. Her mother was accused of adultery and witchcraft. For a queen consort to commit adultery was high treason. It was also high treason for a man to have carnal knowledge of a woman of the royal family outside of marriage. The charges were very likely false. Nevertheless, three men were tortured into confessing to committing adultery with Anne Boleyn. The whole affair was probably cooked up by the scheming lord chancellor: Thomas Cromwell. He was a foe of the Boleyn family. Anne Boleyn and her supposed paramours were all put to death. At a stroke he removed Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn and Henry Norris who was Cromwell’s main political rival. There was also a musician called Mark Smeaton with whom Anne Boleyn had probably no more than flirted.
Elizabeth was suddenly downgraded to an illegitimate child. Her mother was declared to be an adultress and a sorceress. Her marriage to Henry VIII was annulled. Some of the Boleyn’s foes people suggested that Elizabeth bore a striking resemblance to her mother’s putative lover Mark Smeaton. In fact that is nonsense. Every unbiased observer noted that the similiarity between Elizabeth and Henry VIII was unmistakable.
This could all be a traumatising experience for a child. Fortunately, Elizabeth was so tiny that she can scarcely have been conscious of the gravity of the situation. She had seldom seen her mother anyway. It was very common for children to be orphaned then because life expectancy was so low. Many women died in childbirth. Therefore Elizabeth may not have been as severely psychologically damaged as we might imagine.
Anne Boleyn had gone to her death with fortitude and protesting her innocence with her very last breath. On the scaffold far from fulminate against her hypocritical, adulterous, vain and murderous husband she had praised him as the kindest king ever! No doubt Anne realised that she had better say something flattering about the man who had ordered her death. Otherwise her daughter Elizabeth would suffer.
As soon as her mother was killed Elizabeth was moved to smaller and less comfortable rooms. She was no longer a princess but a lady. Her clothing allowance was immediately stopped. Within a few weeks Lady Bryan was writing to Lord Chancellor Cromwell insisting that more clothes be sent for Lady Elizabeth. ”I beg you to be good to her and hers that she may have raiment.” The letter went on, ” for she has neither gown, nor kirtle nor petticoat. ”

In fact Lady Elizabeth had received a huge consignment of clothes just before her mother was accused of adultery. It is probable that Lady Bryan was overstating her ward’s lack of raiment to ensure that her complaint was taken seriously.

Shortly after Anne Boleyn’s execution. Lady Bryan approached the king with Elizabeth in her arms and asked if he wished to see his daughter. They king scoffed angrily and doubted that the child was his.
Lady Bryan took Elizabeth to Hatfield. She did her level best to shield the child from the horror that had unfolded. Some of those who had previously harboured a quiet loyalty for Mary Tudor were now only too glad to show their scorn for Elizabeth. As Anne Boleyn had been executed Mary Tudor was back in the king’s good graces. Mary Tudor’s mother had died of natural causes a few months earlier which only gained her even more sympathy.
Lady Bryan described Elizabeth as a ”succourless and redeless creature”. (Succour is help). Lady Bryan had been used to receiving very detailed instructions from Anne Boleyn. With Anne Boleyn dead Lady Bryan had a great deal more autonomy. She did not find this entirely to her liking.
Lady Bryan did not know Elizabeth’s exact status. She wrote indignantly to Thomas Cromwell asking for clarification, ” Now Lady Elizabeth is put from that degree she was in to what degree she is in now I know not but by hearsay ”
Sir John Shelton was in charge of Hatfield House. He insisted that Lady Elizabeth dine at the high table as though her status had not been lowered. Lady Bryan had received instructions that Elizabeth had to dine on a less exalted table. She complained that Shelton was disobeying these orders. ”Mr Shelton would have my Lady Elizabeth dine every evening at board of estate. It is not meet [appropriate] for a child of this age.” The real objection was not her age but her illegitimate status. Lady Bryan paid close attention to rank. The order of precedence was everything at court. It was only by being pedantic about such things that she gained favour at court.
Mr was such a high title that it was acceptable to call a knight ‘mister’. Ordinary men did not have the dignity of being called ‘mister.’ Lady Bryan found it very difficult to get along with Shelton. This appears to have been his fault and not hers.

Lady Bryan saw fit to bother the most important man in government with news of Elizabeth’s teeth. ”My lady has great pain in her teeth which come very slowly.” She showed her motherly concern with this sentence.
Lady Margaret Bryan commented on Elizabeth’s development saying she was ”as toward a child of gentle conditions as ever I knew in my life.” ‘Toward’ in those days meant advanced. She expressed a hope that Elizabeth be allowed to be seen on public occasions. The king was at that stage minded to hide Elizabeth as a reminder of the shameful Anne Boleyn.
Thomas Cromwell had much bigger fish to fry. However, Lady Bryan was so formidable that he felt compelled to answer her and take her complaints seriously.
One historian, Agnes Strickland, summarised it as:
”Much of the future greatness of Elizabeth may reasonably be attributed to the judicious training of her sensible and conscientious her governess.”
Eleven days after Anne Boleyn’s decapitation Henry VIII was feeling in the romantic mood! He wed Jane Seymour.
In 1537 Jane Seymour was delivered of a bonny baby boy: Edward VI. Almighty God chose to call the queen to his mercy. She died 12 days after giving birth.
Lady Bryan was made governess of the infant Edward VI. This was a step up because boys were considered much more valuable than girls. Furthermore, Edward VI was undoubtly legitimate whereas in 1536 Elizabeth was declared to have been born to an unwed mother.The infant Edward VI came to live with his sisters. Lady Bryan was in charge of all three of the king’s offspring. Although she clearly had a soft spot for the girls it was made very clear to her that her main responsibility was Edward. He was far more important to the king than both his daughters put together.

Lady Bryan took satisfaction in Edward VI’s luxurious lifestyle, ”His grace was full of pretty toys as ever I saw a child in my life”, wrote Lady Bryan to Thomas Cromwell. By ‘full’ she means he had plenty of them.
When Edward VI was two years old Lady Margaret wrote to Cromwell reporting on the prince’s every little achievement. There is no mistaking the grandmotherly delight in this missive,”The minstrels played and his grace danced and played so wantonly as he could not sit still.”
Lady Margaret still gave Elizabeth presents many of them made by her own hand.

In 1537 the Sheltons were removed from Hatfield. It was relief for Lady Margaret Bryan who has always found Sir John Shelton hard to get on with. It was also a vindication of her. She was superb at her job and he was not. It was a rare victory for a woman over a man.
Lady Bryan taught Mary Tudor and Elizabeth to be good to their brother. They could so easily have resented him for replacing them in their fathers affections. However, they doted on the child.
After a few years Edward VI was moved away to a grander household. Lady Bryan moved with him. He was her sole charge. Elizabeth and Mary Tudor then lived apart. Mary Tudor was well into her 20s and did not need a governess any longer.
Lady Bryan began education with these children. They learnt the rudiments from her. Later on their education was provided by erudite men. It was their general development that was her field.

It appears that she retired in 1452. Her pension was 20 pounds per annum which was handsome indeed.
Lady Bryan served Edward VI so long as her health allowed. She died in about 1552.
Lady Bryan brought up three monarchs. By all accounts she was brilliant at her job. She was a disciplinarian who was also warm and reasonable. Her responsibilities were very serious indeed. She also had to navigate Tudor politics. Her wards were highly educated, worldly and courtly.
The three monarchs all turned out to be fairly successful in their way. Mary Tudor succeeded in restoring Catholicism though at the cost of her popularity. For Mary Tudor is was Catholicism that mattered so this was a price worth paying.

Suite Francaise


This is a superb film. It takes a worn theme – France under German occupation – and a tale that has been retold in myriad ways (love across the divide) and reworks them in an innovative and engaging fashion.

I had not heard of a single member of dramatis personae yet they were all excellent. The acting was convincing and the characters were mutlilayered. There were no lazy stock characters. The dialogue is spare. It is not overly effusive nor is it jejune. It is credible and gets the tone just right in terms of expressing high emotion without being stilted.

In 1940 the Germans reach the small town of Bussy. Kristin Scott Thomas is the dowager of a substantial country house. Her son is a Prisoner of War. Liliane is Kristin’s daughter-in-law. Liliane had been married for a few years yet no baby has been born. This is one of several sources of animus between Kristin and Liliane. The love has gone out of Liliane’s marriage some time ago.

The mayor of the town instantly makes an accommodation with the Wehrmacht. AFter all France has surrendered and the French Government has ordered its functionaries to facilitate German rule. The mayor is a an old aristocrat and he is a decent sort and believes he is being a good Frenchman by minimising aggro between the townsfolk and the occupiers. At first the German Army behave honorably. They demand that all French folk hand in their firearms. All weapons or handed it – or so it seems. The German soldiers ask French citizens to write to them with reports of bad conduct on the part of their neighbours. The German Army is flooded with letters by Frenchmen denouncing their compatriots. The Germans successfully divide and rule. They know the local gossip – who is suspected of being a thief and who has been having an affair.

German officers are billetted on families. A handsome young officer moves in with Kristin and Liliane. Kristin thinks of him as an enemy. She does what she has to but it never friendly. Liliane perceives his inner goodness and she is courteous towards him. I shall call him Hans. They grow closer and Kirstin chides Lilian for being civil to Hans.

Rupprecht is a German officer who moves in with Gaston and his wife Mariane. Gaston is disabled and his gammy leg forfended military service. Rupprecht is condescending towards the couple. He openly mocks Gaston about his leg and his inability to fight. Rupprecht soon flirts with Mariane. She rejects his overtures and Gaston bridles at this effrontery by his unwanted guest.

The German soldiers swim nude in a lake. Gaston has hidden an unlicensed firearm in his barn. He takes his gun and hides in the wood. He trains his sights on Rupprecht. I am thinking – no, don’t do it. You will be caught and killed. Gaston relents. At this moment Hans tries to persuade Rupprecht not to harass Mariane. Rupprecht testily dismisses this counsel. ”Don’t lecture me on morals. You were not like that when we were ordered to shoot prisoners.”/ ”I did not shoot anyone.” says Hans gravely./”But I did and with delight.”/ ”We were at war then” observed Hans/ ”we still are” is Rupprecht’s riposte.

Rupprecht sees women as spoils of war. French civilians are still the enemy and merit no respect. Rupprecht stands for a large section of the German Army. One of the most laudable parts of the film is there is not a single allusion to Nazism or Hitler. Most people are not very political. The war is about nationality more than ideology. Rupprecht is the sort who would eagerly go along with Nazism without believing in it or disbelieving in it. He is an opportunist who will follow the majority.

Gaston poaches from the mayor’s land. Caught stealing chickens he tells the mayor’s wife,”the day the Germans leave….” He does not need to complete the sentence. Some upper class French people found German rule congenial. They began to realise that if they Germans were defeated they would suffer and not just due to collaboration..

Hans is more reflective. He has some fairly candid discussions with Liliane. He was a composer and joined the army due to a sense of family solidarity. He is asked if he agrees with the war. ”Lets just say I admire the communal spirit.” He is canny enough not to disparage his government but his attitude is plain. He has striven to find something positive to say about the war – the sense of camaraderie among the soldiers.

Soon Liliane discovers that many French girls have begun relationships with German soldiers. Most young Frenchmen are Prisoners of War or are labourers in Germany. She does not look down on them for acting as their nature inclines them. She comes across one of her neighbours having athletic sex with a soldier in the forest. The 1940s stocking add a frissons of kinkiness to the passionate woodland encounter. The girl feels shamed and runs after Liliane trying to justify her actions. ”Some of them are better people than our men.” She makes a very valid point. Someone happening to be German in the war does not make him evil any more than Frenchmen were necessarily good. Liliane has become increasinly attracted to sensitive and cultured Hans.

The Germans decided to arrest Gaston. As a German truck draws near he runs and hides. His wife tries to delay them. In the barn he is confronted by Rupprecht who has found his gun. Possession means execution. Gaston grapples with Rupprecht and overpowers him – shooting the officer with his own revolver. The others hear the gunshot. Gaston gets on a motorbike and speed s out of there.

That night the Germans scour the woods. Liliane goes out in the middle of the night to find him. She brings him back. She lets Kirstin in on the plot. This patriotic brings the two women together whereas previously they have sparred. Gaston is secreted in a priest hole. The Germans search the house.

Hans’ sixth sense tells him that something is going on. He chooses not to pursue it. He knows that if Liliane is found to have abetted a fugitive she will be killed.

Gaston’s wife is arrested and beaten up. Later she is released. She goes to Liliane’s house. Liliane has not told her where Gaston is because Mariane might be tortured into giving him away. Mariane sees Liliane in her finest dress with her hair in a chignon and wearing makeup. Two wine glasses are on the table with candles. Mariane realises that Liliane is having a romantic dinner with Hans. Mariane inveighs against Liliane as a traitor to her people and her husband.

The  mayor of the town is arrested in the stead of Gaston. He is in charge of collaboration and a German has been killed on his watch. Unless Gaston is given up within 48 hours then the mayor shall be shot in place of Gaston. The Germans calculate that a well respected and local figure will be saved – someone will betray Gaston. In fact some people loathe the mayor because he is an aristocrat and a rapacious landlord. Hans is told by his superior that he will be in charge of the execution.

Gaston is not apprehended. The mayor is lead out to be put to death in the town square. Hans goes through with his duty depsite clearly being disgusted by it. The anguish is etched onto his face. He hesitates but gives the orders loudly and decisively. To make it even more agonising the doctor takes the mayor’s pulse after a volley of shots and indicates that the mayor is not dead. It falls on Hans to give the coup de grace. He comes close and shuts his eyes before putting a final bullet into the mayor’s chest.

Hans stands for a large number of decent Germans who fought in the Second World War because they were compelled to. They did their duty due to coercion. They despised Nazism but were not heroic enough to oppose it. Hans is easily the most complex and fascinating character in the film.

One of the things that is unrealistic about the film is how many German soldiers there are in a small town. In reality it would have been the Vichy Milice keeping order.

Liliane decides to help Gaston escape to Paris. She will drive him and he will be hidden in the boot of the car. One of Hans’ men said the tobacco he smelt in the house was not Hans’. On the travel pass he wrote an order that the car must be searched.

Hans is frightened. He suspects that Gaston will be in the car. Gaston will be found – Gaston and Liliane will be killed. Suspicion will fall on Hans. Did he collude with them? He was living in the house and he approved the travel pass.

Hans rides his motorbike up to the check point – presumably to insist that the car not be searched. But he is too late. The boot was opened. Gaston shot dead the soldier searching it and also shot another soldier before being wounded himself. Gaston has the humanity not to kill Hans who helps them on their way.

It is based on a true story. I wonder what happened next. Did the dead German sentries kept traced to Liliane?

The film has a fast moving and straightforward tale. Yet it kept me guessing. What would happen next? Would they make it?

The characterisation was superb. The facial expressions with voluble. The wardrobe was brilliant. It was true to life. People were never overdressed and the clothes were faded and tattered as they would have been. It was accurate about the moral compromises and human dilemmas behind the war. It was a gripping film and a delight from first to last. Oddly there were no quips in it.