Friday, 30 November 2012

Broken Dreams So Grand: The Death Of Charles XII

November 30th, 1718 marks the death of Charles XII, King of Sweden. Having spent the majority of his 36 years at war, it is fitting that he died as he lived: amongst his troops. The manner of his death is still unknown today. Was he killed by a lucky enemy bullet or was there sinister treason from within?

Let us quickly look at the accession of Charles XII, also known as Carolus Rex, through the music of Sabaton. It was the release of this song which prompted my interest in the king.

Charles ascended to the throne at the age of 15 in 1697. Quite learned and resourceful, the young king quickly grew into his role. His young age and supposed inexperience forced the hand of Sweden's enemies, most notably Denmark-Norway and Russia, to attack the Empire. This initiated the Great Northern War which was fought from 1700 to 1721.

With Sweden already being a strong military power, Charles further reformed its military and ensured rigid discipline. The Caroleans also held a strong faith in God which became synonymous with their cause. Lastly, the king developed an aura of invincibility that many under him came to believe. Leading from the front, Charles wore the uniform of a common soldier, forgoing more ostentatious garb of the time. In his early campaigns, the king would be in the heart of the battle and always walk away unharmed. In relatively short time, the triple alliance which attacked Sweden was mostly defeated leaving only Russia. Charles led Sweden to numerous victories including the Battle of Narva where Russia lost over 10,000 men to Sweden's 667.
As history has proven time and time again, Russia's manpower would be the deciding factor. The Battle of Poltava was the turning point which historians mark as Russia's rise to a European power. His army decimated, Charles fled to Turkey and eventually returned to Sweden.

Following successive campaigns against Norway, Charles besieged an enemy fortress at Fredrikshald in late 1718. Per his usual tendencies, Charles personally inspected the trenches to bolster the moral of his troops. As he stood on the parapet, arms crossed and resting on the trench lip, a shot rang out and the king's head slumped into his coat. A contemporary source describes the shot hitting the king as sounding similar to "an open hand striking hard against one's thigh". Charles died instantly. With him died the Swedish Empire and the absolute monarchy for both dissolved in the following years.

Once again, the story continues in the lyrics...

Still debated today, one question remains: who killed the king? The trenches were indeed close enough to the fortress for enemy snipers to pick off the besiegers. Moral amongst the Swedish troops was low as men were dying on a daily basis to sniper fire as they dug closer and closer. But based on the trench alignment and the king's own body position, an enemy bullet hitting the skull as it did has extreme odds. The more accepted theory is that Charles was killed from within. Perhaps it came from a common soldier who was tired of the constant warfare during the king's reign. Or, perhaps, the conspiracy stretched to Charles's brother-in-law Fredrick who became the next king.
The german medic who worked on the king's body was disturbed by a dream in which Charles was reanimated and told him "es kam einer gekrochen" (one came crawling). This hints at the conspiracy within. The discussion continues...

Charles was buried at Riddarholmen Church in Stockholm. In 1917, his body was examined and one can find pictures of the autopsy online. I myself plan to visit Stockholm next April and see the King's effects first hand. The Livrustkammern still displays the uniform he wore the night of his death, his white gloves stained by blood as a reminder of the demands of war.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Deus Vult!

On this day in 1095, the seeds of the First Crusade were planted by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in France.
The Council of Clermont from a 15th century interpretation.
Taken from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Weary of the constant warfare amongst the nobility and warrior class of Europe, the Pope looked for a new avenue through which the violence could be directed. We must remember that it is still early in the formation of European kingdoms and many kings did not yet possess the power they would later hold. Instead, Europe was split into individual territories ruled by dukes, counts, etc. All of them held their own wealth, land and arms (through feudalism/ serfdom) and they defended themselves accordingly. At the time, violence against fellow christians was a serious sin. Fighting for the church, however, was something entirely different and actually encouraged. All that Urban needed was a reason...and a target.

This came from the east when a messenger of Alexius Comnenus, Emperor of Byzantine, appealed to Rome for help in pushing back the encroaching Seljuq Turks. Seeing an opportunity to not only rid himself of constant infighting but to also strengthen Rome's grip on territory, Urban preached a sermon at Clermont on the 27th of November. There are five remaining accounts of his speech, all of which differ. Robert the Monk presents it as follows:

"... this land which you inhabit, shut in on all sides by the seas and surrounded by the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; nor does it abound in wealth; and it furnishes scarcely food enough for its cultivators. Hence it is that you murder one another, that you wage war, and that frequently you perish by mutual wounds. Let therefore hatred depart from among you, let your quarrels end, let wars cease, and let all dissensions and controversies slumber. Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre; wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject it to yourselves ... God has conferred upon you above all nations great glory in arms. Accordingly undertake this journey for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the Kingdom of Heaven".

With rousing cries of "Deus Vult!" (God Wills It), the public rushed to "take the cross" by pinning scraps of cloth in the form of the cross to their clothes. The offer of a remission of sins appealed to many, including the warrior class whose hands were stained by their profession. The first group to head out from Europe became known as the Peasant's Crusade led by Peter the Hermit on his donkey. Emperor Alexius didn't know what to make of the rabble sent to him (he expected perhaps 1000 knights, not 20,000 non-combatants). He let them pass right into the teeth of the Seljuks and almost all were massacred. Later in 1096 and early 1097, the true crusading force arrived under the command of  Bohemond of Taranto, Tancred, Godfrey of Bouillon, Baldwin of Boulogne and Hugh I, Count of Vermandois.

In July of 1099, despite all odds, the Crusaders captured Jerusalem. Pope Urban II did not live to hear the good news. He died fourteen days after the city's capture but before a messenger could read Europe. The success of the First Crusade led to many subsequent attempts, but none could ever reach the success of their predecessor.

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Tour Of Abbeys Continues

On my recent trip to York, I came across the ruins of St. Mary's. My lack of adequate prep for the trip saw to it that I knew nothing of the structure's existance! So imagine my surprise when I came across the walls of the nave.
While I was able to see a good amount of the abbey, there were some structures deeper in the park that I missed. Guess it just means I must return to York on another day.

The full report on the abbey can be found under the UK Tours section to the right of this page.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

History In Sheffield: Pt 7

Visiting Monarchs!

There have been several major events in Sheffield's long history that merited a visit from the reigning monarch. Two occured relatively close to one another at the turn of the 20th century while a recent third can be relived through the magic of the internet. We start with the oldest...

Queen Victoria opening Town Hall in 1897.
Sheffield was granted a city charter in 1893. Given its rapid growth as an industrial hub and producing world renown metalwork, Sheffield quickly built a new town hall to replace a smaller, older design. This building still stands at the center of town and continues to perform its administrative duties in addition to providing the background for fantastic photo-ops.

Once completed, the hall needed a grand opening. The 15th Duke of Norfolk, who became Lord Mayor of Sheffield in 1897, petitioned heavily for an appearance by the queen. High in favor, Norfolk succeeded and a reluctant Victoria mader her way north. She did not like Sheffield and only spent three hours in the city, not once stepping out of her carriage! The relationship was quite one-way. Sheffield spent lavishly for the queen and lined the streets with plaster facades, banners, flags and joyous onlookers. The event is commemorated in two monuments which can now be seen in Endcliffe Park. You can see them in my previous post .

Henry Fitzalan- Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk. He is remembered via this lifesize statue inside town hall.

The royal carriage eventually stopped in front of the town hall gates and the queen (to her amusement) was given a electronic turn-key. When she turned the elaborate key, the metal gates would swing open to triumphant fanfare. In reality, the box had a wire which ran to a light. When triggered, the light would turn on and thus act as a signal for a group of hidden men who then pulled the doors open!

A photograph of the event, courtesy of the town hall. Queen Victoria is in the center of the carriage.
The very turn-key and box used in the ceremony.
To remember the event, Victoria was honored with a statue above town hall. Again, quite ironic given that Victoria wanted nothing to do with Sheffield.
King Edward VII opening the University of Sheffield in 1905.
Following the completion of Firth Court and the union of several smaller schools, the University of Sheffield was properly established. All that was left to do was have Queen Victoria's son, now Edward VII, open it. On his way to the event, the king misplaced his speech. What resulted may perhaps be the shortest opening speech in history:
"It gives me great pleasure to open this University".

Firth Court, University of Sheffield

Edward VII is remembered by this statue in Fitzalan Square.

Queen Elizabeth II visiting Sheffield in 2010.
I'll let youtube do the talking. Please note the following video is not my work...just sharing a link for the sake of learning!
Queen Elizabeth II in Sheffield

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

We Interrupt This Program...

Almost a week without posts!
My apologies to all those who read this on a regular basis (so about 4 of you haha) but I've been quite busy this week. I've had little time to actually post about things, but I have been busy visiting some interesting sites! Stay tuned for new posts on York, Scotland, Victorian Sheffield and more. I'll probably get back to posting starting Sunday.

Until then!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Dissertation Kick Off!

The culmination of the university's history program is a 15,000 word dissertation on the topic of our choice. Now that we've had some classes to discuss what such a paper entails, I feel much better about it than when I accepted my placement.
Having picked my topic, title and supervisor, I am even more confident of future success.
Time for the big reveal!

It's Tudor based. Well duh. I'm sure you will be surprised to hear that there is no Anne Boleyn...anywhere. I admit that my original intention was to write about her in some capacity, but I quickly realized that a) there's too much information out there to process in a short time, b) she's been written on extensively (Who will top Ives? Seriously) and c) everyone and their mother is an arm-chair historian on her life.
I wanted something different, something that lacks extensive secondary sources which leaves the path open for a potential book should I so choose. As I toured the city of Sheffield and became familiar with its history, I came across an important character. Unlike Anne, there is little mystery about his personal life. Unlike Anne, he lived to be 70 (In early Tudor times nonetheless). And unlike Anne, he managed to survive many challenges where his allegiance would be tested...

Primary research tactic: plaster the walls in sticky notes. Just getting started.
His name is George Talbot and he is the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury. Born into a Lancastrian family who suffered loss during the Wars of the Roses, he married a lady with family ties to prominent Yorkist figureheads. He fought for Henry VII at Stoke and proceeded to quickly rise through the ranks at court, becoming a privy councillor in 1512 and Lord Steward of Henry VIII's household. All the while, he had to tend to his own estates in the north and consolidate his growing power. He survived the Wars of the Roses, the treason of Buckingham, the fall of Wolsey, Henry's "Great Matter" and the Pilgrimage of Grace.
The memorial of the 4th Earl and his two wives. He built the family chapel starting in 1520. Now known as the Shrewsbury Chapel at Sheffield Cathedral, the vault below holds the remains of several earls and family members.
Cunning Loyalty: The success of George Talbot in an era of Tudor faction

Each student must have a professor supervising their dissertation. Obviously they need to be an expert in their field in order to provide assistance and advice. With my luck, I managed to find Dr. Catherine Fletcher. She is an early 16th century expert particularly on diplomacy in Italy. Her book "The Divorce of Henry VIII" looks at the king's matter from the eyes of his papal ambassador. I actually have two copies because they changed the title and I got confused!
In another sign that it really is a small world afterall, my friend Natalie actually interviewed Dr. Fletcher for her wonderful website You can see it HERE!

The ruins of Manor Lodge. This was the home built by the 4th Early about 2 miles up hill from Sheffield Castle. A magnificent site to visit if you love ruins.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

We Remember

Today, the 11th of November, marks the day of armistice. At the eleventh hour, the guns of World War One finally fell silent leaving nothing but scarred countryside and the quiet fallen. Starting in 1919, all Commonwealth nations observe Remembrance Day to honor the fallen of the Great War. Other names include Armistice Day and Veterans Day.

Here in England, it seems there is a memorial in every town. I've lost track of the number I've seen in Sheffield alone. We must keep in mind that regiments were raised locally. When they went to war, entire battalions consisted of friends and neighbors. Similarly, when these forces were annihilated on single charges "over the top", their hometowns lost everyone.

To commemorate the day, the public adorn their coats with the "Remembrance Poppy". The flower is attributed to a heralded poem written by Canadian field surgeon Lt.Col. John McCrae:

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands, we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The poppies grew quickly over the graves of the fallen and their red color mirrored the blood that was shed on all sides. It has since become the unmistakeable symbol of the war.

I am humbled in wearing the poppy for its weight is not lost to me. My respect for all those who fought and died is infinite. Glory and honor to you all.

Sabaton- The Price Of A Mile

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Dr. Starkey Has Left The Building!

Courtesy of the Historical Association- Sheffield Branch, I was able to attend a free lecture by Dr. David Starkey. He is, of course, a renowned Tudor historian both in the UK and US. For the latter, the Showtime series "The Tudors" has revived interest in the period and most fans/ historians turn to him first. In the UK, his personal commentary on current events tend to land him in hot water. Given what I heard tonight, he does like to include witty humor in his lectures. If one is easily offended, then I can see why his reputation has taken a hit.

Anyways, Dr. Starkey is known first and foremost for his studies of Henry VIII. Here is a selection of his work and I recommend them all:
"Virtuous Prince" - The story of how Henry was shaped by his childhood
"The Six Wives of Henry VIII" - A detailed analysis of the queens under Henry. There are many authors who have published under this title. I would recommend in order: Starkey, Fraiser, Weir.
"The Inventory of Henry VIII" - Edited by Dr. Starkey, this massive tome recounts every item in the King's household when he died.
"Henry VIII: Mind of a Tyrant" - A multipart TV series that ties in with his "Virtuous Prince" book.
"Monarchy" - Another TV series recalling England's monarchy in chronological order.

Firth Hall within Firth Court (1905) University of Sheffield
The lecture tonight was entitled: "Henry VIII: The Great Divide". Usually Dr. Starkey tends to recycle some of his work, but I was surprised to hear a fresh take on Henry's turn from Rome. Starkey argues that we, as historians, try to look for big events to justify the great impacts that follow. In this case, Starkey points out the little minutia in Henry's life which caused the split from Rome.

Firstly, he submits a view of how fanatically religious Henry was. He recalls a prayer scroll that Henry read from as a child and how graphic the depicitions of the crucifiction are. The pictures and text were meant to put the reader into a fanatical fervor/ passion of similar self sacrifice. Continuing to maturity, Henry warred with France in 1513 for two reasons: first, to continue the Hundred Years War anew and second, to act as the Pope's holy defender against Louis XII of France who broke from Rome! Henry saw himself as a righteous crusader. Even his ship, the Mary Rose, is thought to be named after the Virgin Mary. When Martin Luther first posted his "Ninety-Five Theses", Henry was the only European monarch to defend the Pope. In writing his "Defense of the Seven Sacraments", Henry was encouraged, by all people Sir Thomas More, to tone down the rhetoric pertaining to the Pope's all encompassing power on earth. Quite ironic given the events of 1535/36.)

Second, as Starkey points out, was love. Henry and Anne Boleyn's romance is well documented (including a lecture by yours truly), but he goes a step further and picks a specific turning point. In the Love Letters of Henry VIII, the king receives a gift from Anne. This jewel, a ship with a maiden and diamond represented her submission to him and their agreement to marry. Starkey dates this to new years day, 1527 because of the way the french word for "gift" is interpreted. While I'm not fully onboard with his chronological placement, the notion behind it is universal: Henry was now fully devoted to Anne and would see his marriage through. This saw his split from Rome and the creation of the new church.

Henry's conscience ruled above all and in creating his new church, Henry was adamant in seeing his will be done per God's law. By the end of his reign, the Church of England was not yet fully developed but held many similarities with the catholic church with the all important exception of Henry being the supreme head rather than the Pope.

This all being said, I saw many comparisons pulled from his TV series "Mind of a Tyrant". If you would like to know more, Youtube is your best friend.

Afterwards, Dr. Starkey opened the floor for questions. With 400 people in the room, I managed to get picked! I asked him about Window #4 at King's College Chapel in Cambridge. It is quite obvious that Henry is depicted as Solomon but historians differ as to who the Queen of Sheba is (Anne Boleyn or Katherine Howard). He responded that he doesn't know who it could be but offered an additional interpretation: that it is not of the queen, but rather of the Virgin Mary and Henry's responsibilities to the new church of England (See Carola Hicks "The King's Glass" pg 160-161). I haven't been able to track down an installation date for window #4. Given that Holbein first presented Henry as Solomon in 1534, the turn around would need to be quick for the glass to represent Anne.
My photograph of Window #4. More info about Cambridge in my UK Tour section!

Someone else asked him if he liked historical fiction. He, like me, is not a big fan but said Hillary Mantell knows what she's doing unlike Phillipa Gregory. Haha glad I'm not alone.

Dr. Starkey even stayed afterwards to sign books and talk with people who couldn't get their questions answered. I managed to poke him about Part 2 of Henry's Inventory. Turns out, the first part was just released! He also showed sincere interest in my own pursuits. I must say he is a different person when he is not lecturing or in front of the camera. Hats off to him!
I'm not usually one to complain about my looks in pictures, but I'm not in top form at all. 
Ah, that's better. Carry on!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Remember, Remember the 5th of November...

...the gunpowder treason and plot!

On this day in 1605, the gunpowder plot was foiled when authorities found Guy Fawkes guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder under parliament. The catholic conspirators planned to assassinate the protestant King James I as he gave a speech by blowing up the palace.
To celebrate the safe deliverance of the king, crowds in London started bonfires, a tradition which continues to this day as "Bonfire Night"/ "Guy Fawkes Day". Ironically, the celebrations usually involve fireworks which...blow up.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

More Glass Than Wall

Well it looks like it, no?

My tour of Hardwick Hall is now up. This house is the crowning achievement by Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury. Judging by her initials at the top of the towers, she won't make you forget! Considered one of the finest Elizabethan houses in England, it is a must-see if you are a fan of the period. While I'm happy to have seen it, I don't feel the need to go again. I really need to find some earlier structures. I need crenellation! I need red brick! I need timber!

The link to view Hardwick is on the right under UK Tours: Hardwick Hall. Enjoy!

Friday, 2 November 2012

History In Sheffield Pt 6

 I found myself at the train station this morning and decided to make a small detour up the nearby hill. Just beyond South Street Park is another smaller park which recalls a sad period of Sheffield's history. During a recession in the early 1800s, the living conditions within the industrial city became lax and unsanitary. The result was a massive cholera outbreak which killed 402 citizens.
The dead were hastily buried in a communal grave. In 1834/5, two years after the epidemic, a monument was erected in their memory. This is now known as the Cholera Monument which sits within the grounds of Clay Woods and near the burial site of the victims.

The monument was started Dec 11, 1834 and completed April 11, 1835.


View of the monument from the only citizen who received a marked grave.
John Blake, aged 49, was elected Master Cutler of the city in 1831. He succumbed to the disease after a few hours and was quickly buried with the rest of the victims on the site of the present day park. His position of office accorded him this marker.

A close up of Blake's marker.
While the other 401 casualties did not receive immediate markers, some were placed later by surviving family members. I only managed to find two still visible above the grass surface:

The Cholera Monument is to the left, Blake's marker is on the right (in the patch of light) and the remaining two markers are in the open area of the park in the middle of the picture.

The monument just visible above Clay Woods. The train station is in the foreground.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Nature Photographer?

Last Saturday, I was dropped off at the bottom of Hardwick Park and had to make the trek up the hillside to both Halls. Judging by the landscape, I decided to head off in the direction that seemed the most likely way to the top. After about two miles trudging through narrow lanes and farmland, I realized that I may have guessed incorrectly! The good news is that I eventually made it to the buildings. Even better, I have some really good photographs to show for it. Note to self: make the investment and get a DSLR. Seriously.



I don't think she found it a-moo-zing (ugh)