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  1. On 18th January 1486, Elizabeth of York married the recently crowned King Henry VII of England. The wedding had been a long time coming, and multiple English nobles had pressured Henry to ensure that he went through with a promise he had made in 1483, and help end the Wars of the Roses.

    ExilesHenry VII of England

    Henry Tudor, as he had been known before becoming King, had spent fourteen years in exile. First in Brittany, where he had fled with his paternal uncle Jasper Tudor, and then France when Brittany allied with King Richard III. He was the male heir to the House of Lancaster's claim to the English throne, and therefore a focal point for rebellion against the House of York and their kings; Edward IV and then Richard III.

    Elizabeth on the other hand had had a mostly stable childhood. In her infancy her father had fled to the court of Burgundy and her mother had sought sanctuary with Elizabeth and her sisters. This "exile" from the English court had only lasted months before Edward had returned with a small force, gathered an army, and then defeated both the Earl of Warwick and Margaret of Anjou at the Battle of Barnet and Battle of Tewkesbury respectively. This was to be the last set of major battles for a good few years, and once Margaret of Anjou was in prison and her husband and son, King Henry VI and Edward of Wesminster, were dead there was no other Lancaster contender to the throne besides Henry Tudor.

    Their lives therefore had been very different. Henry had been supported by his uncle, a long way away from his mother Margaret Beaufort. His childhood had been spent in England, and he had received a good education, but life as an exile was always dangerous. He could have been arrested and sent back to England for imprisonment, or killed if someone thought it might earn them favour with the King. If they struggled to find patrons in Brittany or France then both he and Jasper would have been forced to travel further afield for help, with no guarantee of a warm welcome. Meanwhile Elizabeth had grown up in the centre of a close family, with both her parents frequently spending time with their children. She was betrothed to the French dauphin when she was nine, if the match had gone ahead she would have become Queen of France, but it was called off by the French in 1482.

    Her life had fallen apart in 1483 when her father Edward IV died. Her uncle Richard moved faster than anyone expected, taking her brother Edward in to his "protection", while the rest of the Royal family fled in to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth's mother was eventually persuaded to give up her second son, Richard, and both he and young Edward became known as the "Princes in the Tower" after they disappeared.

    A PromiseElizabeth of York

    On 25th December 1483, Henry Tudor went to Rennes Cathedral and publically swore that he would marry Elizabeth. If the marriage went through it would unite the two opposing families and their rival claims for the throne, and hopefully create a lasting peace. It also showed any York supporters who disliked Richard III that there was an alternative, through Elizabeth the York family would still have a connection to the throne. Nowadays we would expect that Elizabeth herself could claim the throne, but at the time a reigning Queen was not something people wanted, not when there was a male alternative in the sidelines.

    But after Henry won the Battle of Bosworth Field he didn't rush to marry Elizabeth. He was determined that his reign would be his alone, and that his enemies would have no reason to claim that Elizabeth was the rightful monarch. He had himself crowned in October 1485, claiming the throne by conquest rather than through his marriage. The potential wedding was delayed, probably to allow Henry time to be seen as King in his own right, but in December a petition was read out in Parliament requesting that he honour his original promise. A few weeks later, on 18th January, the wedding ceremony was performed in Westminster Abbey. They went on to have seven children, although only three outlived their parents and became King Henry VIII of England, Queen Mary of France, and Queen Margaret of Scotland.

    (Don't forget to check out my shop, where I have badges for both Elizabeth and Henry!)

  2. On this day, 5th January 1066, King Edward of England died in London. He was sixty two years old and had no son, a fact that had cause considerable debate in England in the years leading up to his death, and would lead to an invasion by William Duke of Normandy later that year.

    The lack of any child from Edward's marriage has puzzled historians for years. Edward only married when he was in his early forties, three years after he became King of England. The delay may have been because it was difficult for him to find a suitably high-status wife. He spent most of his life in exile in Europe, probably in his mother's homeland of Normandy. His inheritance of the English throne was taken by Danish conquerors, and any man that married a daughter to him could not be certain whether he was marrying a future King of England or a man who would never be able to return home. It may also be that Edward had no intention of marrying at all, after his death his widow would claim that he had sworn himself to a chaste life. If this is true then it could have been a decision he made early on in his adult life.Edward the Confessor

    The theory that has been put forward in recent years is that Edward's lack of an heir was a deliberate snub to both his wife and his family. The woman he had married was Edith of Wessex, the daughter of Earl Godwin. Her family were extremely powerful and influential, and without their support Edward would have struggled to hold on to his throne. Edith appears to have been the price he paid for their on-going agreement to not rebel against him, but it doesn't mean he had to follow their plans exactly. It has been pointed out that Edward could have consistently refused to consummate his marriage with Edith, which would have Godwin over a barrel. He couldn't rebel against his son-in-law without removing his daughter from the throne too, and there was no real alternative without claiming the throne himself, which would not have gone down well with the rest of the Anglo-Saxon nobility.

    At one point Godwin's family overstepped the mark and were exiled from England by Edward, while Edith was banished to a convent. But they soon reappeared a year later, and Edith was reunited with her husband. From that point it was impossible for Edward to divorce her, whether their childlessness was caused by a medical condition or a deliberate decision, it was not something that was going to change in the future. As a result Edward began to look around at his extended family for a potential man to name as his heir.

    One of the earlier probabe candidates was Edward Aetheling, who was a nephew through the King's  paternal half-brother Edmund Ironside. The Aetheling was recalled to England, but died shortly after arrival leaving his five year old son as another possible contender. Norman historians claimed that Edward offered the throne to William Duke of Normandy, who was distantly related to Edward but not through any Anglo-Saxon relations.

    In the end Edward's death was witnessed by only had a handful of people, including his wife Edith and her brother Harold. They would go on to claim that Edward left his throne to Harold on his deathbed, and to emphasise the point Harold had himself crowned less than twenty four hours later at Westminster Abbey (the traditional coronation venue was Winchester Cathedral, which shows how quickly Harold had to move).

    But as news of Edward's death spread across England and Europe in the following weeks, multiple claimants began to come out of the woodwork. By the end of 1066 England would have seen several bloody battles, the deaths of a large number of Anglo-Saxon nobles, and invasion forces from both Norway and Normandy. 

  3. On the 25th November 1120, Henry I left Normandy and sailed across the Channel to England. He left behind his son and heir, William Adelin, along with several of his illegitimate children, various other nobles, his nephew Stephen of Blois, and their servants. No doubt he assumed that he would see his son a few days later when they were both in England, perhaps reunited in Winchester or London.

    Back in the harbour of Barfleur, William was proving to be a generous host. The wine had been opened, the crew were joining in with what was proving to be a high-spirited afternoon, and more people slowly joined in the fun. Stephen of Blois left, reportedly due to illness, as did several others, but as evening fell there were three hundred people on board who were all determined to have a good time. The White Ship was reportedly acknowledged as being one of the best of it's kind, only the best would be used for the heir to the English throne of course. With this in mind some of the party began to encourage the crew to start a race. King Henry's ship had got a good head start on them, but the channel was relatively calm, there was a good wind, and they had the best ship. Surely they could surprise the King by overtaking his ship in the night and beating him to England. Instead of Henry waiting for his son, he would wake to find William waiting for him.The White Ship from The British Library

    With their pride now at stake, the crew agreed. It was now dark, and everyone had drunk a bit too much. Barfleur harbour could be difficult to leave safely if you weren't used to it, and while the captain (a man named Thomas Fitzstephen) had plenty of experience, he'd also had plenty to drink as well. The White Ship never reached the Channel, as it left the harbour it hit a rock, and quickly began to sink.

    In the dark night there was panic on board. A few forward-thinking people managed to launch a small boat from the side and get William Adelin in to it. As the heir to the English throne he was the most important person on board, his life could not be forfeit under any circumstances. The sound of his friends crying out for help as the water couldn't help but move the young Prince, especially when he recognised the screams of his half-sister, Matilda Countess of Perche. Ignoring the danger, William ordered his little crew of rowers to turn back around and help him rescue the Countess. But as the little boat moved towards her, others in the water clawed desperately at it, begging for help. The boat was capsized, throwing William and his rescuers in to the freezing cold November water.

    When dawn rose on 26th November, it found one man left alive in Barfleur harbour; a butcher from Rouen. Everyone else, including William Adelin, had drowned. Not only would this prove devastating to King Henry I, but in the long-term it would also lead to the period of civil war known as The Anarchy.

  4. On this day in 1389 Isabeau of Bavaria, Queen of France, gave birth to a baby girl in Paris. Princess Isabella was the third child and second daughter of the Queen and her husband King Charles VI. Sadly she did not have the best childhood, or the longest life.

    Childhood

    Isabella's parent's marriage had originally seemed like it was divinely blessed. Charles reportedly fell in love with his bride at first sight, and showered her with gifts and a lavish coronation. Their first child was a boy named Charles, who died aged eight, followed by Jeanne and then Isabella.

    But things slowly took the shine off the royal life. Charles developed a mental illness, which first appeared in 1392 when Isabella was three years old. For the rest of his life Charles would swing between lucidity and insanity, a situation that led to various political players attempting to gain control of the country. One of those players was Isabeau, who quickly developed a reputation in the medieval chronicles for neglecting her children.

    Charles' periods of sanity meant that Isabeau continued to fall pregnant, in total Isabella was followed by nine siblings. The Royal nursery was reportedly far from what it should have been, records stated that the children were left to run around in old, dirty clothes, and that if it wasn't for the servants they would have starved, as Isabeau never bothered to arrange supplies. Modern historians have pointed out that the actual records from the court show payments made for toys and clothes for the children, suggesting that even if Isabeau didn't spend much time with them, she certainly didn't neglect them.Isabella of Valois

    Charles' illness also meant that France was vulnerable to attack from outside as well. France and England had been at war for years, but it was a fight that was proving to be increasingly unpopular in England, and in the end Charles and King Richard II negotiated a truce, with Isabella playing a key part. Richard was a widower, his wife Anne of Bohemia died in 1394, and he had no children. The peace with France was sealed with a marriage to Isabella, who was a mere seven years old when the wedding took place in October 1396.

    England

    After the wedding Isabella was taken over the English Channel and deposited safely in the care of two English duchesses and provided with a governess from France. Richard reportedly visited her frequently, when he would take her for walks in the garden. Despite the wealth that she brought with her, she was far from popular with English public or Richard's court, who felt that he should have married a woman old enough to bear children.

    Despite the unconventional home set-up, Isabella appears to have had genuine affection for her "husband". After Richard was deposed by his cousin Henry, the new king decided that the French truce could continue. He had a son, also called Henry, who was closer in age to Isabella, and by marrying his heir she would still eventually be Queen of England. Isabella on the other hand appears to have refused, and went in to official mourning for her husband. After a certain amount of negotiation (Henry was probably stalling in the hope that Isabella would change her mind), she was allowed to return to France with the jewels and other goods that her family had given her for her wedding.

    In June 1406 at the age of fifteen Isabella married for a second time, to her cousin the Duke of Orleans. Four years later she gave birth to her only child, a daughter named Joan, and passed away a few hours later. In her time as Queen of England she had little opportunity to make her mark, and her early death meant that she left little impression on French politics. Her younger sister Catherine went on to take her throne, marrying Henry V in attempt to bind France and England together once more. 

  5. On this day in 1216, a hasty coronation was held at Gloucester Cathedral. The country was at war, and a nine year old boy was the new King of England. It wasn't a great start for the new Henry III.

    Civil War

    King John had been an unpopular king for years, which eventually led to the signing of Magna Carta. This revolutionary document failed to maintain peace for long. As soon as he could, John repudiated the document, and the First Barons War became official. England descended in to chaos, with John and a few loyal supporters on one side, and a large number of the nobility and popular of England on the other side. The rebels were also supported by King Philip II of France, whose conquering of English possessions in France had started the problems. Seeing an opportunity to gain a new jewel in the French crown, he sent his son Prince Louis with his own army to assist the rebels, and hopefully claim the English throne.

    Magna Carta had been signed in 1215. A year later, John was very ill, and fighting a lost cause. He had began a major offensive in September 1216, but rapidly lost his strength after contracting dysentery. He eventually reached Newark Castle in Nottinghamshire, where he died on 18th October. The story goes that he ate himself to death by gorging on peaches, but given that he was already seriously ill it's probable that it simply caught up with him.

    Henry was only a boy, too young to be accompanying his father around the country. Instead he had been left in relatively safely with his mother, Isabella of Angouleme. His father's will had named William Marshal as his guardian, showing that while John might have been an idiot in some decisions, he knew who his friends were. Marshal had a reputation as one of the greatest knights in England, he was strong, intelligent, chivalrous, and while he may have disagreed with John in the past, he was utterly loyal to his king. Henry was in good hands.

    Coronationking henry iii

    London was held by the rebellious barons and Prince Louis, so the traditional place of coronation, Westminster Abbey, couldn't be used. A coronation bestowed legitimate royal power on the King, so in order to strengthen Henry's claims against Louis, the ceremony needed to be held as quickly as possible. It was also hampered by the missing Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, who had been banned from England by the Pope, until peace could be declared.

    Henry was hastily taken to Gloucester, where he was crowned by an assortment of bishops, arranged by the papal legate to England. It's believed that King John had lost the crown jewels when crossing The Wash, as a result the reports of the time state that Henry had to be crowned using one of his mother' gold circlets. It wasn't the best start to a reign, but at least it gave England a new focal point. No one liked King John, but they disliked French influence even more. It soon became clear that there couldn't be an outright winner.

    Future Reign

    Henry would also go on to have his problems with his nobles. Louis was eventually defeated by William Marshall, and agreed to leave England once a large sum of money was offered to him. In the future, Louis' son and Henry would both marry daughters of the Count of Provence, and the French court would support Henry in his own fights against the Barons. After this inauspicious start, a second coronation was held for Henry in 1220, with permission granted by the Pope, with a newly created crown and a recently returned Archbishop of Canterbury.

    Although this was the first "emergency" coronation held for an English king who was still a minor, it wasn't the last. Henry's great-grandson, Edward III, would also one day have to endure a rushed ceremony thanks to political problems.

    (If you're a fan of Henry III, you can find his badge!)

  6. On this day in 1537 Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour, died at Hampton Court Palace. Twelve days earlier she had done what her predecessor, Anne Boleyn, had failed to do - give birth to a living baby boy. Sadly though the birth would end up killing her.

    Childhood

    Jane's exact date of birth isn't known, but she is believed to have been born some time in 1508, mostly likely at her family's home of Wulfhall in Wiltshire. She was one of nine children, of whom six survived, including three of her brothers. Very little is known about her childhood however, her father was Sir John Seymour, but he wasn't a great political player like Anne Boleyn's uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. Unlike Catherine and Anne, she didn't have a reputation for being well-educated or quick witted, which suggests that she may have been taught little more than reading and writing.

    But even with little education, Jane could still attend court. Since her father was a courtier it was natural that a place would also be found for her. She was duly assigned to the household of Catherine of Aragon, and on her downfall, to that of Anne Boleyn. During this time she came to the attention of King Henry himself, who by this point was becoming convinced that his second marriage wasn't going to give him the necessary son, just like the first. Jane wasn't considered to be particularly beautiful, and with her lack of education she wasn't going to be the centre of attention like Anne had been. In fact, that was just what Henry appears to have wanted, a quiet and mild wife.

    MarriageJane Seymour Queen of England

    Jane and Henry were betrothed on 20th May 1536, the day after Anne Boleyn's execution. They were privately married ten days later at the Palace of Whitehall, but Jane wasn't crowned. Historians believe that Henry decided to wait until Jane was pregnant before she was officially given the crown, coronations were large, public and expensive events and he would hardly go to the trouble for a woman that may prove to disappoint him.

    Unlike Catherine in her early days, and Anne during the height of her success, Jane appears to have had little to no power or influence over the King. Several times she appealed for mercy, first for Princess Mary and then later on behalf of an Abbey and for the lives of men involved in a northern rebellion. Henry consistently refused her requests, and at one point reportedly told her to keep Anne in mind, which can't be seen as anything less than a threat. On the other hand Jane was allowed to order her women as she liked, and apparantly banned her ladies from sporting the French fashions which had been so popular under Anne.

    Death

    By the spring of 1537 Jane was pregnant. The summer progress - a tour of various counties by the King and Queen so they could get away from sickness in London - was cancelled. After so many miscarriages with the previous Queens, nothing was left to chance with this pregnancy, there would be no travelling if it could be avoided. Jane went in to "confinement" at Hampton Court on 16th September. She went in to labour in the second week of October. It would prove to be a long ordeal, reports from the time suggest it took three days for things to progress, and prayers and hymns were sung for her health. On 12th October, a live baby boy was finally born, and was promptly named Edward. After his christening, three days later, he was returned to Jane's room where she and Henry were waiting to receive the court.

    At first it seemed that Jane had got through her ordeal safely, she was certainly well enough to receive the court in her room. But she soon took a turn for the worst. Despite more prayers in St Paul's Cathedral, and the best attempts of her doctors, she died on 24th October 1537. Her cause of death was most likely puerperal fever, a serious infection that was common in a time when no one understood the concept of hygiene, such as midwives washing their hands.

    She was buried at Windsor Castle in St George's Chapel, and Henry would eventually be buried beside her. Jane's death sealed her in Henry's memory as his perfect wife. She had given her life so that he could have the heir he wanted.

    (If you're a fan of Jane Seymour, you can also check out her badge!)

  7. (This review contains an Amazon Affiliate link, clicking it takes you to the book on Amazon but will not cost you any extra money to buy it)

    Last Christmas I bought "The Final Season: The Footballers Who Fought and Died in the Great War" by Nigel McCrery, as a gift for my Dad. With the official start of the First World War Centenary, a lot of books about this period in history were released in time for the festive season. My Dad loves football and has always found history interesting, so this seemed like the perfect combination of interests. I also checked the index and found that his football team, Queens Park Rangers, got a small mention.

    He always gets a lot of books at Christmas and for his birthday a few months later, so this was put in the "to be read" pile. As a result I forgot about it, until I spotted him reading it a few weeks ago. Once he was finished I decided to borrow it, and I'm very glad that I did.

    Football and The First World Warthefinalseason

    This book starts out a foreword from Gary Lineker, which I actually enjoyed reading more than I thought I would (my thoughts were "bloody football pundit gets everywhere"). It then starts off right at the beginning of the war, and gives some context with explanations about the way they leagues worked at the time. Professional and amateur players, the role of the FA, the capped wages, are all dealt with concisely, so you get a good background without getting bogged down. It then moves on to the role that football played in the first months of the war, and the pressure that was put on players to sign up for the armed forces.

    After this the book proceeds pretty chronologically, tackling the main battles and theatres of war that we all know. But rather than look at the military side, the author instead puts the focus on the football players who were fighting at these different times and places. He gives you a quick background of their lives, moves on to their playing careers, and then raises their military history. Many of the men he discusses were killed, with one or two surviving but not able to play again.

    A Good Read?

    This book is not a good read. It is an excellent read. I struggled to put it down, I read it on the bus, in my lunch break and before I went to bed.

    I must admit, I'm struggling to put my finger on why I enjoyed it so much. It's very well written, if you don't know a great deal about football at the time then the opening chapter soon clears up a lot of misconceptions you may have. It also doesn't get bogged down in long explanations about military operations or War Office decisions. A few points are explained, but always quickly, and the focus is soon back on the men.

    I suspect though that the reason why I enjoyed this book so much, is because of the wide range of teams and areas that are mentioned. This is not a book that is focused on Chelsea, or Manchester United. It doesn't point solely at London as the centre of the footballing world. I bought it for my Dad because QPR got a small mention, but so many other teams are included too. Half of them probably don't exist anymore, or if they do they're merged with other local teams. The Welsh and Scots get a fair amount of attention, and goalkeepers and midfielders are discussed alongside record-creating strikers. For one last time these men are brought to life, before they are consigned to their memorials.

    At the end of the day this is a terribly sad book to read. Quite a lot of these men, heroes in their time for their antics on the pitch, have no known grave. The author explains which memorial they are recorded on, and highlights any family they had left. There are two who were awarded the Victoria Cross for their acts of bravery, several more were awarded the Military Medal. Some have been commemorated in recent years with statues and memorial plaques at their former clubs. 

    If you want a book for a football fan this Christmas, I cannot recommend this one highly enough. Even if they have only a passing interest in history, they will find this a good read. It doesn't preach about the rights and wrongs of the war, or go in to dull detail. It simply highlights the lives of men who ran out on to green pitches to cheering crowds, and who ended their lives far from home, deep in mud and surrounded by the sounds of guns, just like many other men who fought with them.

  8. On 29th September 1240, Eleanor of Provence gave birth to her second child and first daughter at Windsor Castle. The baby girl was named Margaret, probably after her mother's sister, Queen Margaret of France. She was preceded by Edward, the heir to the English throne, and followed by Beatrice, Edmund and Katherine.

    Childhood

    The Royal nursery appears to have been established at Windsor Castle, and despite the wandering nature of the English royal court, was probably the closest place that Margaret had to a home. Eleanor of Provence was unpopular during her tenure as Queen, but as a wife and mother she was thoroughly dedicated to her family (something that may have stemmed from her own childhood, her parents also kept their daughters close by in childhood).Margaret of England, Queen of Scotland

    At the age of eleven Margaret was married to King Alexander III of Scotland, who was a year younger than his new spouse. The bride's father, Henry III, managed to maintain peace with Scotland for most of his reign. King Alexander II of Scotland had been married to Henry's sister Joan. Their childless marriage had ended when Joan died, Alexander III was the King's son by his second wife, Marie de Coucy. At the time of his marriage, the boy had already been king for two years.

    Life in Scotland

    After the wedding, which was held at York Minster, the new royal couple returned to Scotland. But it didn't all go smoothly at first. Margaret had left behind a warm and loving family to move to a court full of people she didn't know, which led to a period of severe homesickness for the young Queen. After writing to her parents complaining that she was badly treated, Henry and Eleanor requested that she be allowed to return home for a visit. The Scottish council who were ruling the country on behalf of Alexander refused the request. In the end Henry and Eleanor gathered an army together and marched north, determined to see their daughter. Margaret was allowed to travel south to visit her parents, and then returned to Scotland.

    She would be allowed to return home again in the future. In February 1261 she gave birth to her and Alexander's first child, a daughter named Margaret. The little girl was born at Windsor Castle, showing the affection that the Queen of Scotland retained for both her old home and the country of her birth. Two sons, named Alexander and David, were born in Scotland in 1264 and 1272 respectively.

    Death

    In February 1275, Margaret died at Cupar Castle in Scotland, she was only thirty four years old. Given that her last child was born in 1275, it's highly likely that she fell ill rather than died in childbirth. King Alexander remained a widower for ten years (although it's reported that that didn't stop him having a few mistresses in the intervening period) before marrying a second time to Yolande of Dreux. Margaret's children all died young; Princess Margaret married the King of Norway and died shortly after giving birth to a baby girl, Prince Alexander died childless shortly before he turned twenty, and Prince David died aged nine. In time this would create a succession crisis, and the Scottish interregnum.

  9. On this day, 20th September 1486, Elizabeth of York, Queen of England, gave birth to a baby boy at Winchester. He was christened with the name Arthur, and his birth symbolised the hope of the new Tudor dynasty.

    Childhood

    Arthur's birth has caused some historical controversy as his parents were married on 18th January 1486. Over the centuries some have questioned whether Elizabeth of York and Henry VII were lovers before their wedding, citing Arthur's date of birth as proof. Others have argued that he was premature, citing it as a cause for his later illnesses and early death. Regardless, Arthur was given a splendid christening in Winchester cathedral, ordered by his paternal grandmother Margaret Beaufort, with tapestries, carpets, and the font placed on a raised stage so that the crowds could get a good view of their future king. The choice of name was a good propaganda move, as a new king of a new dynasty Henry VII needed to boost the popularity of his line. By naming his son Arthur he was telling the crown that under his family the country would return to the glorious days of Camelot, an extremely popular tale in the medieval period.

    Arthur grew up in Farnham in Surrey, close enough to London for his parents to be able to visit him but far enough away that he was protected from the plague and other virulent illnesses which were rife in the city. As the heir to the throne he was assigned a household to care for him, two years after his birth a woman named Elizabeth Darcy was put in charge of his nursery, she had had a similar role for Arthur's maternal uncle Edward. In time Arthur would be sent to "rule" the principality of Wales, while his siblings (including his brother Henry) grew up at the palace of Eltham.

    Marriagearthur tudor

    The future of the Tudor dynasty, and it's place in European politics, seemed to be cemented when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain proposed a match between Arthur and their youngest daughter Catherine. As the prospective bride and groom were both toddlers at the time it took a while for negotiations to come to a solid conclusion. They finally underwent a marriage "by proxy" in 1499, and in October 1501 Catherine arrived in England. Arthur met her for the first time at Dogmersfield in Hampshire, and would not meet again until their wedding day. Instead Arthur and his father watched Catherine's ceremonial London entry on 12th November from the top floor of a house, out of sight of the Spanish princess.

    On 14th November 1501 Prince Arthur and Princess Catherine were married at St Paul's Cathedral. As with his christening, Arthur's marriage ceremony was held on a specially constructed stage so that all those who had been able to squeeze in to the church could see the heir to the throne. After the ceremony the Royal family travelled to Baynard's Castle for the wedding feast. In the evening the couple were put to bed, an event that would lead to serious controversy several decades later over the question of whether the marriage was consummated or not.

    Death

    Within weeks of the wedding Arthur was dispatched back to Ludlow, taking his new bride with him. They resided in Ludlow Castle, albeit in separate sets of rooms. Their marriage ended up being rather short-lived, on 2nd April 1502 Arthur died after a short illness. The illness that killed him is another cause of debate, with some believing that it was the dreaded "sweating sickness" that had cut through swathes of England in recent years. Others argue that it may have been a measles outbreak, and some believe that it may have been tuberculosis.

    Arthur was buried at Worcester Cathedral, where his monument still stands. His throne and his wife both went to his younger brother, Henry VIII. 

  10. This day in 1087 saw the death of England's first Norman king, William the Conqueror.

    The Bastard

    At his birth, no one could have predicted that William would one day become King, even becoming a Duke seemed unlikely. His mother was a woman named Herleva, the "mistress" (or "concubine", although both terms had different meanings than they do now) of Duke Robert of Normandy. The Duchy was almost constantly at war, Robert struggled to keep any kind of control, but he still found time to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He died on the return journey, leaving William (probably no more than nine years old) as his only heir.

    Luckily for the boy he was supported by his great-uncle, until the man's death led to a power struggle. William grew up in a violent and dangerous world, his numerous guardians were killed, one of them was murdered in the same room the young man was sleeping in. As he grew older, William was able to take a more active role in his Duchy, with the support of King Henry of France.

    Married ManWilliam the Conqueror

    Sometime in the early 1050s William married Matilda of Flanders. They were banned from marrying by Pope Leo IX, but appear to have gone ahead anyway, and they may have been required to build the two monasteries at Caen that would eventually take up their attention.

    By 1051, King Edward "the Confessor" of England was still childless and appears to have named William as his heir. William was not Anglo-Saxon, he and Edward were related through Edward's mother Emma of Normandy, who was the sister of William's grandfather. There were better claimants through Edward's paternal, Anglo-Saxon line, but being acknowledged as heir was enough for William to be a serious contender when Edward died in January 1066.

    King of England

    The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14th October 1066. By the end of the day William's rival, King Harold Godwinson, was dead. William was crowned King of England on 25th December 1066, and set about cementing his rule over Anglo-Saxon England.

    William faced numerous revolts over the years in both England and Normandy. He and Matilda crossed the channel frequently to shore up support in both the kingdom and the duchy. Matilda and their eldest son, Robert, acted as regents in Normandy for William during his absences, but there were still points when William had to leave his kingdom to ensure that rebellions in Normandy were thoroughly silenced. Likewise, Matilda travelled to England with her husband for shows of strong family unity, and is believed to have given birth to her fourth son, Henry, while visiting England in 1068. Sadly William was predeceased by his wife, who died after an illness in November 1083. The last years of William's reign saw more troubles as his son Robert led rebellions with the help of King Philip of France.

    William died in Normandy on 9th September 1087, leaving Normandy to Robert and England to his second son, William Rufus. He is buried in Caen, but it was England where he really left his mark. 

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