Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Battle of Bosworth

On this day, August 22, a battle took place that changed the history of England. It brought the Tudors, under Henry VII, to power, and brought defeat to the Plantagenet's, under Richard III. This battle changed history, and without it, I believe, the English would never colonized America. I may have not liked the end of the Plantagenet era, but it had to die.
The site today has a magnificent visitors' center and museum that explains what happened on that momentous day. The battle was sort of a cliff hanger. It is one of the worth documented battles in medieval history. There is no eyewitness account of it. It could have gone either way, since Lord Stanley had not committed himself to either side. Richard had 12,000 men on his side; Henry Tudor could have had as little as 4,000 to as much as 10,000 men with him.
The battle was not dramatic in any way. Shakespeare gave it some gallantry in his Richard III
, but he was a propagandist, not a historian. Richard did not yell out "my horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse" after he was dismounted. And he and Henry Tudor did not duel each other.
In the middle of the battle, Lord Stanley and the Earl of Northumberland defected to Henry's side. Richard led a charge of 200-300 of his personal knights down to try to engage Henry Tudor in combat. He was wearing his battle crown, and was a prime target. He managed to cut down Henry's standard bearer, but he was dismounted and run through by a pike. His naked carcass was dragged off to a neighboring church later that day.
It is said that Lord Stanley found Richard's crown under a bush and crowned Henry on the spot. The Plantagenet's were dead

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Battle of Winchelsea

Edward III's battle of Winchelsea is not very known. It took place on August 29, 1350. Edward was fighting the Castilian navy, sent from Spain under the direction of King Alfonso XI, who had been paid a massive sum by King Philip VI of France. The Castilian ships were famous and dreaded. They were know as castles of the sea, and because they were so large, the crossbowman could shoot down at the English longbowman without risking death. The English thought of this navy as a potential invasion threat.
Edward, however, had been busy rearming his kingdom's navy. On March 26, orders had been sent for men to assemble by June 6 at Sandwich, Kent, England. On June 23, the king ordered that no one should leave the country. On August 10, he sent word to the archbishop of Canterbury, desiring prayers for the forthcoming battle.
The Castilian fleet numbered around forty-four ships. Edward had fifty, but they were much smaller. On the prince of Wales galley, there was Edward, the prince and Edward's eldest son, and his younger son, ten-year old John of Gaunt, who had asked to follow his twenty year old elder brother into battle (he was serving in the prince's household as a squire). The other vessels were commanded by Knights of the Garter and other military heroes: the earls of Lancaster, Northampton, Warwick, Arundel, Salisbury, and Huntington, Sir Reginald Cobham, Sir John Chandos, and of course, Lord Walter Manny. Crowds gathered in the harbor and the Sussex cliffs were crested with people hoping to see another English victory. Among them were men and women from the queen's household. Philippa herself was six miles away from Winchelsea, worried for Edward and her sons.
If the English wanted to engage the Castilians, you had to collide with them or sail ahead of them and furl the sails in order to meet them. The longbowman in the raised wooden forecastles and rear castles waited until the Castilians were in range, and then loosed their arrows. However, firing a longbow is not easy at the best of times, and it would have been much more difficult on a ship. Some crossbowman were picked off by the English, but the choppy waters of the Channel were not as calm as the land around Sluys, which had allowed Edward's archers to massacre the French ten years earlier. The Castilian ships would have to be defeated the old fashioned way. : catching it, throwing grappling irons on board, climbing up and over the other side and attacking those on decks with swords.
Edward led by example, as he usually did. Picking out a very large galley, he ordered his captain to sail straight for it. He presumed his ship, the Thomas was sufficent enough to withstand the collison. But when the two vessels crashed into each other, timbers shook, the hull cracked and immediatly the Thomas was in danger of sinking. However, the Thomas's forecastle tore away that of the Castilian ship, and left its front mast dangling. Edward was all for drawing alongside and boarding it, but the knights with him urged him to engage another ship, for this one was already damaged enough. So Edward disengaged from the first vessel and targeted another, his knights reduced to bailing out water with the sailors. Another large galley, saw the royal standard, sailed directly for the Thomas, and its captain had every intention of boarding it. As the two ships came alongside and grappled one another, the Castilain crossbows rained bolts down on to the English decks and their experienced archers picked off the longbowman in the rigging. Rocks piled on the decks of the galleys were hurled down on to the English men-at-arms as the tried to scale the sides of the vessel. Edward was with them as the fierce fighting erupted, and as many men died on both sides. But Edward's men once more prevailed. Having gained the new vessel, he hoisted the flag from the Thomas, announcing that the king had been victorious.
The battle continued until night. For a while the prince's ship was in trouble of sinking, which would have instantly meant the loss of two of Edward's sons, but the earl of Lancaster saw the danger, and sailed to help the prince. Contemporaries suggest that over the course of the battle, between fourteen to twenty-four Castilian ships were captured, and the remainder fled. No English vessels were seized. Some were sunk on both sides, but it was a great victory for the English, hailed as great a success as Crecy. On landing a little after dark, Edward returned both Edward and John to Philippa. No doubt she kissed her husband too. It had been a day of courage, destruction, and near disater, but ultimatly it was one more victory for Edward.

Notes taken from the Perfect King pgs 274-276

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Questions on Edward III

Hi, Taylor here. You may have questions on Edward III, his life, his family, his politics, and his wars. If you do, click on the title of the post, and write a comment. My email address is Email me, and I promise to get back as quick as I can.
I have some good reading on Edward III if anyone is interseted. Here's a list

Ian Mortimer The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation Random House
W. M. Ormrod The Reign of Edward III Tempus

These are the best books. Again, leave a email or comment and I'll follow up as soon as possible.

Taylor Kniphfer

Edward's Foreign Policy

Edward III had an aggressive foreign policy toward Europe. Since England was isolated from the rest of Europe by the Channel, foreign policy was very important for a stable English monarchy. Edward III's foreign policy is important not because of its makeup, but because of how it was exercised by the three groups that governed England: king-Edward, lords-House of Lords, and commons-House of Commons.
England was unique in Europe with its governmental system. Most of the other countries in Europe, France especially, had a parliament that was just a sitting assembly that exercised the king's will in law. England was different. Their parliament was the highpoint of democracy in the Medieval world. Most of the other monarchies were absolute and no one could challenge the king's commands, but parliament under Edward III would become a second branch of government. It would make its own demands, whether the king approved of them are not. This was defiantly a new experiment.
It should be pointed out that Edward did not approve of every new development that was taking place in parliament. He, like the rest of Europe's great monarchs, wanted to be absolute monarch with an inflexible will. But he was not like the other monarchs because he allowed this new trend to take place.
For a price
Edward would allow parliament to have its way if he got what he wanted out of parliament: money. Edward, for the first decade of his reign was always desperately short of money. He actually caused a Lombard banking family, based in London, to go bankrupt because he couldn't pay his dept of 900,000 pounds. Therefore he needed parliament to raise taxes for his war with France. It wasn't the best solution. Edward and parliament both new that the country might erupt in protest, but they had to try. And they were lucky. Thanks to Edward's huge popularity with the masses for letting the House of Commons come into its own, they never faced a rebellion.
Edward's new policy at home, and especially his victory-winning foreign policy abroad allowed him unprecedented access to England's cash. In the 1352, at a parliament meeting, Edward was granted a six year access to finances; access to the kingdom's purse strings. But parliament didn't just give stuff away. Edward had to sign a butch of statues for this gift. Edward's statues have come down to use; the Statue of Treason, Statue of Laborers, and many others.
Many believe Edward's reforms are dead, that they never traveled far. But in America today, our senate is based on the House of Commons. They traveled far indeed.