«The Kings & Queens of Britain Professor John Cannon held the chair of Modern History at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne until 1992. He has ...»
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The Kings & Queens of Britain
Professor John Cannon held the chair of Modern
History at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne until
1992. He has edited several titles, including The Letters
of Junius (1978), The Oxford Companion to British History
(1997), and The Blackwell Dictionary of Historians (1988),
which was awarded a Library Association prize for
reference works. His other publications include The
Fox±North Coalition (1969), Parliamentary Reform (1973), Aristocratic Century (1984), The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy (1986, 1998), and Samuel Johnson and the Politics of Hanoverian England (1994).
Dr Anne Hargreaves was formerly a clinical academic at the Welsh National School of Medicine, and at the Universities of Liverpool and Newcastle.
She was co-editor of Medicine in Northumbria (1993) and author of White as Whales Bone (1998), a study of dental practice in early modern England. She was a major contributor to the Oxford Companion to British History.
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List of Genealogies Saxons, Danes, Normans 77 House of Alpin 93 Houses of Dunkeld, Balliol, and Bruce 122 Tudor and Stewart 248±9 Stuart and Hanoverian 276±7 Preface Over the last twenty years, there has been agitated controversy over all aspects of national identity, in Britain and in many other countries. The progress of devolution has been welcomed as a means of retaining the unity of Britain, and denounced as a slippery slope which would bring disintegration. The remorseless advance of `Europe' raised the question of whose image and endorsement should be on coins and passports, and where sovereignty resided between European and national courts and parliaments. At a less digni®ed level, there is the question whether England should have a Swedish football coach.
Nations themselves were, to a great extent, created by their monarchs. Century after century, rulers tried to standardize coinage, impose laws, promote one religion, and, above all, to persuade their subjects, often of different races, to live together in peace. The Magonsaete were told not to ®ght with the Hwicces, nor Saxons with Danes, Normans with English, or English with Welsh. Often these appeals were ignored. But kings remained the driving force behind the development of national identity and when, in 1649, Charles I stood in the Banqueting Room in Whitehall, accused of treason by the English people, it was as though the nation had turned on its creator.
By the mid-twentieth century, it seemed that monarchy everywhere was on the way out, and crowned heads an endangered species. After the First World War, the monarchs of Germany, Russia, Austria, and Turkey tumbled, preceded by those of France (1870) and followed by Spain (1931) and Italy (1946). But the late twentieth century saw signs of a comeback. Spain voted to restore its monarchy; after the break-up of Communism, the Russians recovered the bones of the Romanovs from the cellar at Ekaterinburg and gave them decent burial in the renamed St Petersburg; the royal families of Austria and Yugoslavia were allowed home. It may be only a whimper, and in other countries the forces of republicanism make progress. But one explanation may be the widespread disillusion with party politicians, the corridors of `ex-power' littered with disgraced presidents and corrupt prime ministers.
Monarchs, in their reduced role of constitutional umpire, may seem less divisive and more widely acceptable as heads of state.
History casts a long shadow. Our lives are in¯uenced by men and women long-forgotten by most of usÐby Vortigern who, if Gildas is to be believed, invited in the Saxons to protect the Britons from the Picts;
by Offa, who pushed the Welsh back into their mountain fastnesses; by viii Preface Tostig, whose bitter quarrel with his brother Harold may have let in the Normans; by Dermot MacMurrough, king of Leinster, who called the Anglo-Normans into Ireland; by Edward II, whose ineptitude may have done as much to preserve Scottish independence as the valour of Robert Bruce; by William III, summoned to rescue England and Scotland from popery and autocracy, and derided as soon as he had accomplished his mission. They helped to shape the language we speak, the loyalties we profess, and the attitudes we adopt.
We have included short biographies of a number of people who were not themselves monarchsÐGodwin, Simon de Montfort, Cromwell, Albert, and othersÐbut who were so close to the throne that their in¯uence cannot be disregarded. Many readers will, of course, disagree with our choices and our opinions, but we would welcome comment and correction.
Myths Most nations have their own founding myth, intended to give them dignity and importance, and sometimes to comfort them in bad times.
Christian Europe derived many of its myths from the Bible, and dynasties traced their descent from Noah or Adam. The pagan AngloSaxons claimed ancestry from the heathen gods, Odin and Thor. The classical world was also a fertile source, with myths of descent from the Greeks or Trojans. Most myths accumulated detail and embellishment as they developed. When they moved into literature, painting, or music, they acquired a fresh vitality. Wagner's Tristan und Isolde or Tennyson's `Idylls of the King' are no less beautiful for being based on shaky historical foundations. At the least, myths tell us how nations would like to see themselves and promote concepts of bravery, chivalry, loyalty, and fortitude.
Brutus. The legend that Britain was founded by Brutus, a descendant of Aeneas, who escaped from the fall of Troy, was started by Nennius in the ninth century. Geoffrey of Monmouth, a proli®c myth-maker of the early twelfth century, elaborated by explaining that Brutus landed at Totnes, overcame the giant Gogmagog, and founded London under the name of Trinovantum or New Troy. The story held credence until Tudor times, with John Leland protesting its authenticity as late as 1544.
Scota. Scotland's reply to England's claim of descent from Brutus was Scota, a daughter of Pharaoh of Egypt. According to Nennius's account, written in the ninth century, Scota was married to a Scythian nobleman living in Egypt at the time of the escape of the Hebrews from captivity.
His offspring, after many vicissitudes, reached Dalriada (modern Kintyre and mid-Argyll) via Spain. The myth was popularized by John Fordun in his Scotichronicon written in the fourteenth century.
Bladud is said by Geoffrey of Monmouth to have succeeded Hudibras as king of the Britons, to have founded the city of Bath, and to have killed himself while attempting to ¯y, `dashed into countless pieces'.
Lud is said by Geoffrey of Monmouth to have been the elder brother of Cassivellaunus, to have founded (or re-founded) London, and to be 4 Myths buried there. There is, at present, no evidence that London existed before the Roman occupation of ad 43. Ludgate was said to have been named after him, but its earliest mention is as Lutgata c.1100±35.
Leir (Lear). The earliest accounts of king Leir and his three daughters is in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, written in the twelfth century. Though it probably draws on previous sources, they have not been securely identi®ed. Geoffrey described Leir as the son of Bladud. The basic story of his three named daughters and the love test is outlined, and Leir is credited with founding Leicester. In Geoffrey's version, Leir was buried at Leicester in a tomb under the river Soar. He offered a happy ending, with Leir restored to his kingdom by Cordelia's aid, thus providing some excuse for the ending which Nahum Tate made in 1681 for Shakespeare's play.
Cole. The nursery rhyme which gave fame to Old King Cole and his ®ddlers three was extant in the seventeenth century. In the account given by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century, Cole founded Colchester and submitted to the Roman, Constantius, who subsequently married Cole's daughter, Helen. Their son was the emperor Constantine. The name Colchester derives in fact from the river Colne on which the town stands.
Arthur. The story of king Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is one of the most enduring of all legends, popular with poets and dramatists, composers, and ®lm-makers. The usual setting is the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when the cult of chivalry was developing. Edward I and his queen visited Glastonbury in 1278 to see what were said to be the bones of Arthur and Guinevere, and his grandson Edward III had a round table made (still at Winchester), held a great tournament there in 1344, and based the Order of the Garter in part on the story.
The ®rst writer to popularize Arthur's deeds was Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose Arthur was an heroic leader of the Welsh (Britons) in their struggles against the Saxons. Having dealt with them, Arthur proceeded to crush the Scots, Picts, and Irish, and occupy Iceland and Gotland, before tackling Rome itself, which he would certainly have overcome had he not been called home by news of Mordred's treachery.
Geoffrey placed these events in the immediate post-Roman period (late ®fth century), and quoted from Gildas and from Nennius, writing in the Myths 5 King Arthur's Round Table was ®rst mentioned in Arthurian literature in 1115 by Wace, a Norman poet, who explained that it was designed to avoid disputes among the knights about precedence. The round table now in Winchester castle has been dated to the late 13th cent.
late sixth and the ninth centuries. Gildas has no mention of Arthur, and his hero in the struggle against the Saxons was Ambrosius Aurelianus, a noble Roman, though he did mention a later British victory at Mons Badonis. Nennius retained Ambrosius but added an Arthur, who took over his task. The tenth-century Annales Cambriae recorded that Arthur defeated the Saxons in 516 at the battle of Badon and was killed in 537.
6 Romano-British Rulers The Welsh poem Gododdin, written about 600, referred parenthetically to a hero called Arthur.
With this, the hunt was on to identify `Badon' and `Camlann', where Arthur was said by the Annales to have died. The ®rst is usually identi®ed as Badbury near Swindon or Baydon near Lambourn, either of which would ®t a Saxon/British encounter in the late ®fth century; the second has been identi®ed with the river Camel in Cornwall. However, Arthur has also been claimed for many other regions, including Cumbria and Scotland.
Romano-British Rulers Although the occupation of Britain did not take place until after ad 43, contacts with the Roman world had been increasing since the Roman seizure of Gaul in the ®rst century bc, particularly in southern England.
Trade developed, and British kings in the later ®rst century bc issued coins based upon Roman models. For a time after the Claudian conquest, Rome ruled through client kings, but the revolt of Boudicca in a d 60 caused the abandonment of that policy. Kingdoms did not reappear until Roman Britain began to break up, after Honorius in 410 had warned it to expect no more help from Rome.