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Battle of Marston Moor English Civil War on this day Uncategorized

A great and significant date… The Battle of Marston Moor (1642)

One of the greatest assets of a general is a reputation for invincibility. If you have it you are playing down hill and if you are against it you have a big battle to fight. It was today in 1642 the Prince Rupert rode onto the field with his reputation and his poodle and left with only his poodle.

In 1642 the civil war was going badly for the royalist forces in the North. Royalist forces had been pushed back and then besieged in the city of York, the capital of the north. A relief force of Royalist cavalry evaded the parliamentary army and linked up with the royalist foot and then turned to bring the parliamentarians to battle. Facing a royalist army under Marquess of Newcastle and Prince Rupert was an allied force of Scots and Parliamentary forces under Fairfax and Manchester. Exhausted but willing to follow Rupert anywhere his soldiers prepared for battle but being late in the day Rupert was convinced the battle would be delayed. He went to dine and Newcastle retired to smoke so both were taken by surprise as the Parliamentarians started to advance at 7pm. Whatever you think of Rupert he was a very brave man and was able to engage the Parliamentarians and contested the field for several hours before being forced to retire. This was a side show because it was the foot who inflicted serious casualties on the Royalists and won the day. The day was won meaning that the Royalists lost their baggage and their artillery. The battle that should have buttressed the Kings holding in the north led to their unwraveling and after the surrender of York the North was lost to the King.

Prince Rupert lost his reputation but the Iron Sides under Cromwell gained status and renown that would soon become legendary. The loss of the North was a problem of long term significance. Much of the population and wealth lay in the south but the North had important trading ports with the continent which were now lost to the King. By winning and the

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henry HenryVIII History on this day

A very special birthday

Today marks the birthday of one of the most influential men in history, influential beyond all expectations and potential.  This man was the second son in a precarious dynasty that came to power after a long and wasteful period of dynastic struggle. In this turmoil the royal families had been largely destroyed allowing this man’s father, whose family was far from legitimate, to seize the crown from under a hawthorn bush at Bosworth.  The throne was precarious, the country exhausted and certainly not a first rate power.  I am of course talking about Henry VIII.  

The second son of Henry VII was not expected to ascend to the throne and his upbringing was second rate to that of his brother, Arthur, who was groomed to be the perfect Medieval monarch.  Brought up in the household Henry was not a perfect Medieval king and this was probably for the good because during his reign Europe moved from the late Middle Ages towards the early modern period.  He was clever, romantic and believed in dangerous notions such as “love” and actually believed in his religion.   It was the idea that he should love his wife that led to his many divorces and his actual and real belief in Christianity that compelled him to want a proper divorce rather than, as the Pope suggested, he put Catherine away quietly.  To a greater or lesser extent he successfully navigated the turmoil’s of the age which included war, religious revolution and the brand new concept of inflation!  During his reign the seeds sown in his fathers reign of the decline of feudal system, the growth of the power of merchants and professionals and the decline and dissolution of the monasteries came to pass. 

Monastic lands enabled the creation of a new class of landowners, a vast influx of money to the crown and the sudden loss to society of the safety net of monastic charity.   The crown responded to this crisis with new thinking.  Thomas Cromwell brought the philosophy of the Commonwealth men to the nations problems and supplanted the monasteries with the Crown.  Many of the modern public schools and remaining Grammar schools own their existence to the Merry Monarch.  Cromwell established hospitals, schools and other benefits long before the idea of the welfare state became the core of Labours 1940s revolution.  Cromwell transformed the finances of the crown to such an extent that he believed that the Crown would not need to tax the nation for three hundred years.  The most shocking fact I know about Henry VIII is that he spent this money in ten years.   Henry VIII transformed England from a medieval backwater into a pre-modern state.  Processes set in action in this strange and passionate mans life led to the Church of England that has spread across the globe, Parliamentary democracy, the idea that the King should rule in Parliament and after a successor failed to learn this lesson and lost his life defending the Devine Right of Kings we have the modern state.  Without Henry we would not have had the American Revolution we would have had a very different world but the world that Henry set in motion started all those years ago with the birth of a second son to a unsecure monarch in a second rate nation just off the coast of Europe.