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Edward IV: Warrior King

Edward IV was the most effective general of the Wars of the Roses. His prowess in warfare enabled him to become king of England, and later to recover his position in spite of remarkable odds. He did experience major setbacks at several points in his life, but he eventually died in his bed, still undefeated in battle. This post will provide a brief overview of Edward’s military career, before moving on to explain the reasons for his success. I will also consider, however, why he failed to achieve more. Continue reading Edward IV: Warrior King

Book Review: Sun of York

Sun of YorkRonald Welch (1909-82) was a prolific author of historical fiction for children and young adults. I discovered his work as a thirteen-year-old, when I picked up one of his novels in the school library. As I was already a budding writer and historian, I quickly went on to read several more. However, much as I enjoyed his other books, my first encounter with Welch, Sun of York, remained a steadfast favourite. It was out of print for many years, and for a long time I despaired of ever finding an affordable copy, so I was delighted when it was finally reissued in a beautiful edition from Slightly Foxed.

Continue reading Book Review: Sun of York

Book Review: The Black Prince

Black Prince CoverMichael Jones’s most recent book retells the story of Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, who is better known today as the Black Prince. Raised to be a warrior in the mould of his father, King Edward III, the Prince ‘won his spurs’ in battle at the tender age of sixteen. At Crécy he commanded a hard-pressed division of the English army, and thereafter his life was dominated by conflict with France. By the age of twenty-six, when he won a spectacular victory at the Battle of Poitiers, he had established himself as one of the greatest soldiers of his time. The Prince also caused a stir when he appears to have married for love, choosing as his bride the beautiful Joan of Kent. (Evidently he was willing to overlook Joan’s controversial past.) Continue reading Book Review: The Black Prince

The Lacock Cup

During a recent trip to London I visited the Medieval Europe gallery at the British Museum – I thoroughly recommend it. I was particularly glad to see the Fishpool Hoard at last (even though a couple of items are currently on loan elsewhere). I was also very taken with the Tring Tiles and a striking morse from Warden Abbey. Another object that caught my eye was the Lacock Cup: a rare and precious survival with a long and intriguing story. Continue reading The Lacock Cup

James IV of Scotland, the Pilgrim King

James IV was one of Scotland’s most colourful kings, who lived life to the full. He sought glory through the pursuit of warfare, although this ultimately led to disaster; he was killed by the English at the Battle of Flodden, in 1513, when he was still only forty. In spite of the awful end to his reign, several modern historians have presented him as an effective ruler – not least because he offered more than military leadership. He was assiduous in the exercise of justice; he lived up to late-medieval ideals of kingship through his interest in learning and patronage of the arts; he excelled in the management of his fractious nobility, many of whom eventually followed him to the death. James also conformed to contemporary expectations in his personal brand of piety, which he expressed most notably through pilgrimage. Continue reading James IV of Scotland, the Pilgrim King

A Brief History of Conisbrough Castle

I grew up in Doncaster: perhaps not the most obvious place to inspire a budding medieval historian. Yet in fact the town has a rich history, and in the wider Doncaster area there are still quite a number of medieval buildings. These include a castle at Tickhill and several wonderful churches. (My personal favourite is quirky little St Oswald’s in Kirk Sandall.) However Doncaster’s most significant medieval building is surely Conisbrough Castle, which dominates the skyline for miles around. It is probably best known for its connection with Sir Walter Scott, whose famous novel Ivanhoe was apparently inspired by the castle, although of course it does have a much longer story. Continue reading A Brief History of Conisbrough Castle

The Siege of Caerlaverock Castle

Edward I was one of England’s most formidable kings – he is respected by historians for his legal reforms as well as his wars – but he is remembered rather differently in Scotland. In the last years of his reign he waged a series of bloody campaigns, seeking to impose his rule over the Scots by force of arms. In 1298 he won a crushing victory at the Battle of Falkirk, avenging an English defeat at Stirling Bridge, although this failed to bring him the ultimate outcome he craved. Thereafter the conflict became a war of attrition, as many Scots continued with dogged opposition.

In the summer of 1300 Edward summoned an army to assemble at Carlisle. The plan was to establish English control in the south-west of Scotland – traditionally a volatile region which was then proving especially troublesome. There was a centre of Scottish resistance at Caerlaverock Castle (to the south-east of Dumfries), whose garrison enjoyed regular skirmishes with English forces. Continue reading The Siege of Caerlaverock Castle