About JuliaH

I teach history courses for the Workers' Educational Association as well as giving talks on various history topics across Yorkshire and the Midlands as well as talks about the history and creation of cross stitch samplers and blackwork embroidery.

More on Saxon kings and their wives

king edgar

King Edgar from Edgar’s position in the genealogical roll of the Kings of England © The British Library Board, Royal 14 B. VI. Accessed from https://www.royal.uk/edgar-r-959-975.

Alfred’s son Edward the Elder was a much married man.  Unfortunately we have to rely on later writers for much of our information.

For example Edward’s children by his first marriage to Egwina are described by William of Malmesbury in the twelfth century as illegitimate.  This is probably unlikely as one of his sons with Edwina was Althelstan whose rule was not contended when he became king after Edward the Elder died.  It is reasonable to assume that had there been a question mark over his legitimacy one of Edward’s other sons would have stood a better chance of becoming king – having said that legitimacy wasn’t necessarily the issue that it became later on.

Edward’s eldest son by his second marriage to Elfleda was called Edwin and he died in 933.  Weir notes that he may have been murdered on his half-brother’s orders. Two sons of Edward’s third marriage to  Edgiva would wear the crown in their turn.

Rather conveniently for us Athelstan never married.  He was succeeded by his brother Edmund who added the tag “the Magnificent” to his name and managed to marry himself to a saint in the first instance and then to an Ethelfleda who became a nun in the second.    Edmund was murdered in his own dining hall in 946 and succeeded by his brother Ædred or Edred depending on which spelling you happen to prefer. Between the Danes and assorted assassinations it was clearly not a good time to become a monarch no matter how magnificent you might have been.

By the time Edred died Edmund’s sons were considered old enough to inherit so first Ædwig (or Edwy) became king and he in his turn was succeeded by his brother Edgar.   If you recall from the previous post Edwy who was only a young teenager allegedly had a fall out with St Dunstan.  Edgar on the other hand came to rely upon Dunstan who encouraged the king to found abbeys and ensure that papal taxes were paid – resulting in Edgar being known as “the Peaceable” and being made a saint.

Having offered you a saint and a murder or two it’s now time to introduce Edgar’s lady wives.  Firstly Edgar married Ethelfelda – a popular name- so the sobriquet “the fair” is usually added to differentiate from all the other Ethelfledas. Sometime between 962 and 964 Ethelfleda died or if you prefer the scandalous version Edgar divorced her and sent her off to a nunnery so that he could marry wife number two with whom he was said to be conducting an adulterous affair.

Wife number two is  Elfrida – which isn’t entirely helpful as the names of the two women are alarmingly easy to swap around. Elfrida had been married firstly to Ethelwald, the Ealdorman of Devon. There is a question mark over the ealdorman’s somewhat convenient death.   When she was crowned in Bath Abbey on 11th May 973 alongside Edgar she became the first recorded instance of a coronation for a queen of England – she did not set a particularly good example thereafter.

When Edgar died in 975 he was buried at Glastonbury Abbey and his son by Ethelfleda (wife number one) became King Edward…the Martyr.

Alison Weir Britain’s Royal Families

From greatness to disaster. Alfred to Athelred

Ethelred_the_Unready

Æthelred the Unready from a thirteenth century copy of the Abingdon Chronicle.

Alfred was succeeded by his son, Edward the Elder who ruled until 924. Edward had campaigned against the Danes during his father’s life time just as Alfred had been his brother’s lieutenant before he in his turn became king.

Edward didn’t automatically become king.  Applicants for the Crown were required to present themselves to the Witan.  Although Edward was the son of Alfred his cousins who had been bypassed when Alfred became king because of their youth were now men. Eadweard and Ethelwald both wanted to become the next king of Wessex.

Ethelwald fermented rebellion and seized Crown lands but was swiftly kicked into touch.  He reacted by taking himself off to Norse ruled Northumbria before returning at the head of an army in 905 when he was killed. Unfortunately for Edward the Elder the battle was actually won by the Danes so he had to negotiate a settlement.  Borders and boundaries became rather fluid after that.

Edward was able to work with his sister Æthelflæd, The Lady of the Mercians to secure territory from the Danes.  Howel the Good of Wales eventually accepted Edward’s overlordship as did the Kings of the Scots and Strathclyde when they met Edward at Bakewell in 920.  Edward died in 924 following a Mercian uprising.

Edward certainly extended the Cerdic line.  He had somewhere in the region of  eighteen children including his son Æthelstan who succeeded his father and ruled until his own death in 939. Unlike his father who the Mercians regarded as a king of Wessex, Æthelstan who had been reared in Mercia was accepted there before he was made king of Wessex.  In 927 he was victorious over the Vikings in York making him effectively the ruler of England (remember Scotland was somewhat larger at that time extending down through Cumbria into Lancashire.) In 934 he invaded Scotland.

Æthelstan wished to extend law and order.  He built on the legal reforms of his grandfather Alfred which is understandable as he had a rather larger kingdom than his predecessors.  When he died rather than being buried in Winchester he was interred in Malmesbury Abbey and succeeded by his brother Edmund.

It was not a peaceful time and Edmund was eventually murdered.  He was succeeded by his brother Ædred who was king from 946 to 955.  In 954 Ædred effected the removal of Eric Bloodaxe from the Kingdom of Northumbria.  When he died the following he was succeeded by his nephew, Æthelstan’s son, Ædwig.  He was only fifteen.  Four years later he was dead. Poor Ædwig had a bit of a reputation allegedly having been caught by St Dunstan consorting with two ladies of ill repute on the night of his coronation. More likely the tale arose out of the feud between the secular and clerical world for the control of the king’s ear.

After Ædwig’s death his brother Edgar became king.  Edgar is known as Edgar the Peaceful. He ruled from 959 (he was sixteen at the time) until 975. He relied upon St Dunstan for advice. He honed the laws and set about standardising currency.  He wasn’t without scandal though.  He allegedly killed a rival in love and when he was crowned in Bath had his wife crowned alongside him – a first for the kings of Wessex. The coronation took place in 973 – rather than at the start of his reign. We will be returning to Edgar’s problematic love life in due course.

Edgar was succeeded by his son Edward in 975.  Edward was murdered in 978 where upon he became known to history as Edward the Martyr and modern historians are increasingly keen to point the finger of blame at his step-mother Ælfthryth who was Edgar’s second or third wife.   Edward had been virtually of age when he became king and had the support of the Church.  The death of Edward at Corfe left the way clear for Ælfthryth’s son Æthelred to become king even though he was still a child.

Æthelred was king from 978 until 1013. Initially his mother was his regent. Æthelred the Unready or ill-advised had Viking problems.  He’s the chap who paid vast sums of Dane-geld to the marauding Norse not understanding the free lance relationship they had with their leaders or the fact that handing over great wages of coin was actually somewhat counter productive.

In 1013 King Sweyn Forkbeard invaded England and Æthelred fled to Normandy. Sweyn died the following year. Æthelred returned and ruled until he died in 1016.

He was succeeded by his son Edmund Ironside. It was a short reign from April to November 1016.  The summer of 1016 was a summer of battles.

 

Wessex’s kings from Ine to Alfred

Æthelred_-_MS_Royal_14_B_VI.jpgBede’s history identifies the most important kings of England’s Saxon world along with plenty of skulduggery, murder and back stabbing. Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex began to emerge from the melee as the dominant kingdoms.  Unfortunately for the first two kingdoms on the list the Danes turned up.  In 865 a major invasion occurred upsetting the see-saw of power between Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex.

Asser listed King Alfred’s ancestors back to Adam demonstrating that if you wanted to be a king of England you needed to be good in a fight (or know someone who was); have a genetic claim to the Crown and be able to demonstrate a link to a) mythical heroes, b) Biblical personages and saints or c) a god of some description.  It’s interesting to note that the Cerdic line had moved its claim from Woden to the Garden of Eden.  It’s also interesting to note that Henry Tudor used exactly the same techniques to assert his right to rule.

685-688 Caedwalla – ruled for three years, went to Rome was baptised and died.  Written about extensively in Bede’s History.

688 – 726  Ine wrote the first surviving English legal code.  Like his predecessor he went to Rome.

726-740 Æthelheard is supposed to have been Ine’s brother-in-law but there isn’t much in the way of evidence.  His Cerdic claim was not something that ought to be examined too closely.  His crown may have come about because of the support of the kingdom of Mercia reflecting that Wessex was still a little kingdom whilst Mercia had become much more politically significant.

740-756  Cuthred might have been Æthelheard’s brother but again history isn’t absolutely sure.  Certainly the kingdom of Mercia was dominant during this period as Cuthred joined the Mercians fighting against the Welsh.  In 745 Cuthred’s son attempted to depose him and there was a rebellion against him.  In between all of that Cuthred fought off Mercian overlordship that had compelled him to go to war against the Welsh.

756-757 Sigeberht became king of an independent Wessex but was promptly deposed by Cynewulf who ruled until 786 when Sigeberht’s brother murdered Cynewulf in his turn.

786-802 Beorhtric ruled Wessex.

786-802 Egbert became king. His father was king of Kent, a descendant of Ine’s brother so the Cerdic claim was back on the cv.  The power struggle with Mercia continued, ultimately resulting in the defeat of Mercia followed by the king of Northumbria who submitted to Egbert at Dore (just outside Sheffield).  Egbert had become Bretwalda.  This was only temporary.

839-858 Æthelwulf was Egbert’s son. Æthelwulf had six children including a daughter Æthelswith who was married into Mercia as part of a political agreement between the two kingdoms.  By this time the Danes were making their presence felt but he still felt able to go on pilgrimage to Rome. He was succeeded in turn by three of his sons; Æthelbald, Æthelbert and Æthelred (pictured at the start of the post.) The eldest of Æthelwulf’s sons died before his father.

Æthelred died in 871 and was succeeded by his brother Alfred who ruled until 899. Æthelred had sons but they were too young to rule which was an important factor at this time as the war between the Saxons of Wessex and various Vikings had not been settled by a Saxon victory at Ashdown.  Alfred who had seen various battles was far more experienced in the art of warfare.  The results of the warfare were inconclusive but gradually Alfred found himself losing territory to the Danes.  He must have wondered whether he would eventually be driven into exile like his brother-in-law of Mercia.  After all, he had started his campaign against the Vikings helping to defend Mercia and was now watching Wessex gradually shrinking.

In 878 the Viking army made a surprise attack in the middle of winter and if you believe such things Alfred found himself in Somerset contemplating his future and burning cakes.  It looked as though Wessex had gone the way of Mercia and Northumbria.  However disaster was averted and his descendants continued to rule in succession until 1016. Alfred, is of curse, the only English monarch to be afforded the title – The Great.

 

Brooke, Christopher.  The Saxon and Norman Kings.

Small kingdoms – a start

illustration-Cerdic-edition-John-Speed-The-Theatre.jpgI was interested to read that most English shires took a form that we would recognise today by the end of the tenth century – excepting those northern counties permanently unable to decide whether they were Scottish or not, oh and Rutland.

Kent, Sussex and Essex were once been kingdoms in their own right rather than counties.  Sussex was established in the fifth century by  Ælle who founded the South Saxon kingdom.  Meanwhile the “South folk” and the “North folk” found themselves being ruled by Rædwald who joined the people of Suffolk and Norfolk in to the kingdom of the East Angles – and so, at a stroke, we have a modern region identified.  In fact Brooke describes the county, regional and town names of England as being like a palimpsest leaving bits and pieces of history littering the landscape.

For the purpose of this post it also demonstrates that history does not happen in a vacuum.  Things evolve gradually over time.  Thus the starting date of 1066 for the History Jar is somewhat arbitrary as Duke William of Normandy, Edward the Confessor and Earl Harold did not spring fully formed from thin air on the 1st January that year.

Our story begins, if family is important, with Cerdic who was an Earldorman and war leader.  In 495 he conquered, if the Anglo Saxon Chronicle is to be believed, parts of the south coast and the Isle of Wight.  Just for context this is the time that the historical King Arthur was supposed to be doing battle on behalf of the Romano-British against the raping, looting, pillaging Saxons and Angles.

Cerdic’s family, which were in all probability Celtic in origin (hence the name), hung on to the land that Cerdic took and by the time of his grandson the Gewissæ as Cerdic’s people had became known dominated their little portion of land.  They didn’t do quite so well in the seventh century when the kingdom of Mercia spread down into the top end of the Thames Valley but that was okay because the Gewissæ relocated into the southwest as well as holding their original southern territories. The most important “petty” king of the Gewissæ  of this period was Cædwalla.  Under his rule the Gewissæ became known as the West Saxons – Wessex.

Cædwalla ruled from 685-688 and was succeeded by Ine who ruled until 726. Wessex was basically Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire.  Cædwalla justified his right to rule not from the fact that he was handy in a fight but because he claimed descent from Cerdic – Brooke notes that its impossible to prove that particular fact.  More important even than that so far as posterity was concerned Cædwalla took himself off to Rome got himself baptised by the pope and then promptly died – ensuring that he got into Bede’s history as a shining example of a Christian life.  Poor Ine ruled for thirty-seven years and created a written code that establish clear laws- the earliest one to survive (probably thanks to King Alfred) but Bede spent more time writing about Cædwalla.

Neither of the two Cerdic leaders identified in the previous paragraph were counted as great kings.  There were plenty of little kingdoms. A single kingdom could even be ruled by several warlords.  However from time to time a great warrior would arise who would be acknowledged as a sort of senior king amongst the others – the title given to such a man would be Bretwalda. 

In 1066 when Edward the Confessor died anyone claiming a descent from Cerdic could apply to become king.  Today some historians aren’t even sure that Cerdic existed – even though the Anglo Saxon Chronicle traces his descent back to Woden.

Whilst William Duke of Normandy wasn’t a Cerdic descendant all kings since Henry II have been.  Henry II’s grandmother, the wife of Henry I (Edith, Normanised to Matilda) was the daughter of Margaret of Wessex – better known as St Margaret.

The next couple of posts will explore how Cerdic’s descendants came to dominate the   Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England…or whether they ever did.  There will also be a family tree at some point.

Brooke, Christopher. The Saxon and Norman Kings.  

 

The Duke of Buckingham’s mistake

Edward_Stafford.jpgEdward Stafford the third Duke of Buckingham really should have known about the dangers of irritating monarchs.  His father the second duke was executed by Richard III and Edward a mere child of five was forced to flee into hiding having been dressed by his mother Katherine Woodville as a girl.

The problem was that Edward was descended thrice over from Edward III despite the fact that his mother was Katherine Woodville.  The Stafford family had been around for centuries whereas the Tudors were Johnny-Come-Late-lies.  This was so much the case that after the death of Prince Arthur in 1502 it was suggested in some quarters that the Duke of Buckingham might make an appropriate monarch.  Not only was Edward a Plantagenet with clear  and legitimate lines of descent but he had also benefitted from a royal upbringing having been made a ward of Margaret Beaufort.

Seven years later  when Edward discovered that his sister had become the king’s mistress he was absolutely furious.  He believed that his family was far to important for Anne to be the mistress of a mere Tudor, a marked contrast to the Duke of Norfolk who would spend most of his political career from the 1520s onwards dangling Howard girls under Henry’s nose.

Buckingham knew how the court worked under Henry VII – a man not admired for his lack of mistresses and had failed to notice that whilst the Plantagenets were first amongst equals – in a country where rulers appointed men to effectively rule their own regions that the Tudors centralised and appointed administrators – that they were absolute rulers for want of a better description.

Henry VII sought to use Edward’s Plantagenet blood in the marriage market when he suggested a marriage with Anne of Brittany but avarice won out when the Earl Northumberland offered the king £4000 for Edward to marry his daughter Eleanor.  By 1509 Edward Stafford had claimed the hereditary right of being Lord High Constable and was on Henry VIII’s newly appointed council having performed in a series of diplomatic and high status court roles.

Buckingham’s sense of self worth was probably reinforced when he received a licence to crenelate, i.e. to fortify a property.  He was treading the path of the fifteenth century over mighty subject who ruled his own domain. He had failed to spot that his second cousin   Henry VIII granted favours to his friends but woe betide them if they didn’t play by his rules.

Thus when Edward heard from Anne’s sister Elizabeth that Anne was conducting an affair with the king he thought that there would be no repercussions when he summoned his brother-in-law and removed Anne to a nunnery some sixty miles from court.  Even worse the affair became common knowledge.  Queen Katherine who was pregnant became very upset and Henry was embarrassed. Anne would return to court and the affair probably continued for another few years if Henry’s New Year’s gift list is anything to go by.  However, the damage was done – Henry knew how to carry a grudge.

In 1520 Buckingham was suspected of treason. It had become clear that Katherine of Aragon was not as fertile as her mother.  A child, Mary, had been born the pervious year but it was unthinkable that a girl might inherit – the Tudors were in danger of dying out.  Edward Stafford was the man, so he said, to take up the Crown –   Henry personally interviewed the witnesses. In April 1521 he was packed off to the Tower for imagining the death of the king and executed on the 17th May. The evidence was flimsy.

Jane Parker, Lady Rochford

Jane-Parker.jpgJane Parker or Mrs George Boleyn has gone down in history as the woman who accused her husband and sister-in-law of incest.  She was also the woman who connived to allow Katherine Howard to meet her lover  Thomas Culpepper- resulting in Katherine being executed and Henry VIII changing the law to allow for the execution of the insane so that Jane could share the same fate on the 13th February 1542.

The image at the start of the post is a Holbein. Recent consensus is that this particular Lady Parker is actually Grace Parker – nee Newport the wife of Jane’s brother Henry rather than Jane.

Jane was described by Henry as a “bawd” because she had helped Katherine to meet with Thomas, had passed on letters and kept watch whilst the pair conducted their assignations during the royal progress to York.. It can’t have come as a total surprise that Henry ordered her arrest when he discovered what had been going on. rather unreasonably Thomas Culpepper and Katherine Howard both tried to put the blame on Jane for orchestrating the meetings.  Jane had a nervous breakdown whilst in confinement.

So, what else do we know about her?  She was descended from Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe,  Margaret Beaufort’s mother – making Jane a distant Tudor relation which accounts for her court links. Her father was raised in Margaret Beaufort’s household. Jane first appears in the court records in 1520 pertaining to the Field of the Cloth of Gold.  She would have been about fifteen. She served in the households of Catherine of Aragon, her sister-in-law Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves  and also in Katherine Howard’s.  We know that she appeared in court masques and we know that in 1524 /25 she married George Boleyn.

Warnicke theorises that Jane and George were unhappily married  because of George’s sexuality- certainly something wasn’t right if Jane was prepared to send her husband to the block on some rather unpleasant charges.  The primary source evidence for this comes from George Cavendish’s account of Boleyn.  However to counter this it should be noted that Cavendish was loyal to Wolsey and there was little love lost between the Cardinal’s faction and the Boleyns. It should also be noted that George had a bit of a reputation with the ladies. The only bad thing that Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador, could say about George was that he was very Protestant in his outlook.  It’s safe to say that had Chapuys got a whiff of George being homosexual that it would have been recorded in his letters.

Whatever the family relationship, in 1534 Jane helped Anne to get rid of an unnamed mistress of the king’s and that Jane was banished as a consequence.  This allowed Anne the opportunity to place another potential mistress under Henry’s nose – a Howard girl- possibly Madge Shelton and someone who was unlikely to be used by the conservative faction at court to weaken Anne’s position.  Jane herself was back at court the following year.

Popular history claims that Jane told the king that one of Anne’s lovers was George but whilst the primary sources talk about ‘one woman’ they don’t actually name Jane as the culprit and there is certainly no written evidence to support the idea although that doesn’t preclude the possibility of verbal evidence.  Like so much popular history we think we know what happened but the closer you look at the evidence the more elusive the truth becomes.

Julia Fox, Jane’s biographer states that Jane was only named during the reign of Elizabeth I.  Jane was long dead and who else cold have told such blatant lies – but a mad woman?  Alison Weir on the other hand concludes that Jane was probably instrumental in George’s execution.  It is also true to say that an anonymous Portuguese writer claimed a month after Anne’s execution that Jane was responsible for the incest accusation.  Weir deduces that Jane was jealous of the closeness that existed between her husband and Anne.

It is true though that the evidence of George’s trial points to Jane telling Cromwell that Anne Boleyn had talked of Henry VIII’s impotence which one imagines would have been more than enough to get Anne into serious hot water with her spouse.

Jane didn’t benefit from her husband’s death.  Thomas Boleyn refused to pay Jane’s jointure.  She was forced to write to Cromwell asking for help.

And whilst we’re at it we should perhaps also look at the idea that Jane was insane at the time of her execution.  Primary evidence supplied by Ottwell Johnson reveals a woman who went to her maker calmly and with dignity despite the fact that no one in her family had attempted to intervene on her behalf. Lord Morley (Jane’s father) and his son Henry perhaps realised the extent of Henry’s anger.

Finally – just to make life that little bit more interesting in 1519, the year before the first written account of Jane at court Henry VIII had a fling with  “Mistress Parker” or at least court rumour said he did.  At fourteen Jane fitted Henry’s liking for young mistresses best typified by Katherine Howard.  Jane like so many other of his mistresses was related to him and like many other of his mistresses a large wedding gift was given.  Alternatively maybe Mistress Parker was Jane’s mother Alice St John?

In 1519 Henry was in the midst of his affair with Bessie Blount the mother of his illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy. Mistress Parker was a diversion whilst Bessie was pregnant.  Could Alice have been Henry’s mistress and gained her daughter a place in Catherine of Aragon’s household?  It’s possible.

Alice outlived her daughter and like her husband she did not publicly mourn the death of Jane.

Fox. Julia,  (2008) Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford

Retha M. Warnicke “The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII”

Thankful villages and the men who came home but never really left the trenches

IMG_0876Thankful villages are the ones that sent men off to fight in the World Wars and all the men who enlisted survived. To be Doubly Thankful means that the village in question saw the return of all its men in both World War One and World War Two.  Survival is, of course, not the same as returning unscathed.    The first time the phrase was coined was by Arthur Mee in his King’s England series of guidebooks – something which I still use on a regular basis What I’m less sure about is how many there are in total.  Mee was only able to identify 24 for certain and a quick trawl of the net reveals that the Telegraph thinks there are 56 such villages. Even the number of doubly thankful villages is open to question with thirteen being the most common response but occasionally fourteen being mentioned.

For the men who did return life had changed.  Pugh makes the point that the Church had preached war and many vicars had encouraged their congregations to enlist.  Evidence suggests that church attendance began a steep decline from the end of the war onwards because for many people the clergy had become symbolic of the State and had told the lie that it was a great and able thing to die for your country. Faith was shaken and certainties tottered.  From 1917 onwards there was a wave of strikes.  In the years following the Great War concern was not so much for declining church attendance as for an upsurge in Communism and revolution.

For other men there were physical injuries, the effects of gas and the disillusionment of a country that promised much for its returning soldiers but delivered little.  Many of the men remained silent about their experiences but one historian estimates that approximately 20% of returning soldiers suffered from shell shock.  The British Army dealt with 80000 cases during the war but for the majority of men the truth was that they just had to get on with it – the archetypal stiff upper lip was required.  There are interesting interviews from children who recalled their father’s return and the resulting lack of stability or financial security on file in the Imperial War Museum.

There were some socially unacceptable diseases that made their way to Blighty and the far flung reaches of the Commonwealth as well – a good proportion of the soldiery had contracted syphilis.

Roberts makes the point that it is unfair to blame the war for everything – a proportion of the men who returned home, self medicated with alcohol, fought and abused their womenfolk must have been rogues to start off with. Emsley’s article notes that newspapers were keen to promote the idea of violence resulting from character change during the war.  Indeed, Christie – as in the serial killer- claimed to have been one such having suffered from shell shock during the war but exploration of his past reveals that there were issues which pre-dated the war.  Even the Metropolitan Police were wary of men grown callas as a result of the war.

For others who returned there was restlessness that led to being unable to settle not to mention estrangement from family life and their pre-war lives.  Some of these men and their families finally recorded their experiences and these can be accessed in the Imperial War Museum or in private correspondence.  It would be interesting to know what proportion of men were so unable to settle that they eventually led a life of homelessness.

Other men were not able to hide their trauma.  In 1914 500 men were consigned to county lunatic asylums. By 1918 there were nearly 5,000 beds in War Mental Hospitals as it had been agreed that it was unfair to stigmatise citizen soldiers with lunacy as a result of their wartime experiences. These hospitals had been established by the Asylum War Hospital Scheme which ran from 1915 until 1919.  Under the scheme service men were required to be sent home to their families for care or sent to a war hospital rather than a county asylum.   The mental hospitals were known as war hospitals to avoid stigma.

In reality many of these hospitals were county asylums, renamed with their pre-war patients relocated to other asylums – resulting in the civilian population of mental health patients suffering lack of stability and familiar surroundings, overcrowding and an increase in patient mortality.

After the war ex-servicemen who could not return to civilian life due to mental health problems had to be dealt with differently. In some cases they were registered as private patients so spared the title lunatic. However by the 1920s the government was less keen to extend its pension provision to men who had been unable to emerge for the asylum or who had succumbed to the trauma of their experiences after the end of the conflict. It was decided by the State that genuine cases recovered – or bounced back to mental health- whilst malingers and those men who obviously had underlaying mental difficulties which had nothing to do with war continued to need care and thus came under the auspices of the county and the poor law – and could be labelled lunatic.

Not cheery – but I’ve got the information that I need!  Now all that’s required is to write the novel….

 

Barham, Peter. 2004 Forgotten Lunatics of the Great War. New Haven: Yale University Press

Emsley, Clive (2008). Violent crime in England in 1919: post-war anxieties and press narratives. Continuity and Change, 23(1) pp. 173–195.

https://theconversation.com/from-shell-shock-to-ptsd-a-century-of-invisible-war-trauma-74911

Pugh, Martin. We Danced All Night

https://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=3398&context=lhapapers

The Other War Dead: Asylum Patients during the First World War

 

 

 

Intelligence officers on the front line

IMG_0865At the beginning of World War One approximately fifty men received a telegram inviting them to join the newly formed Intelligence Corps. Amongst their number were officers from the Metropolitan Police.  Many of them worked behind enemy lines, others identified enemy agents and sabateurs. Some of the intelligence officers had motor bikes so that they could get to out of the way sites in order to find out what the enemy was doing.  They were particularly interested in maps and papers that might have been lost by the enemy.  As the war evolved they also questioned prisoners of war.  Initially this task might have fallen to the battalion intelligence officer but as the war progressed it became a more centralised role.

 

Other forms of intelligence gathering involved the battalion intelligence officer going into no man’s land and raiding enemy trenches in order to gather information – again this might involve finding maps but more usually it meant collecting a prisoner. This meant going into the darkness lightly armed with a small group of men who would be prepared for hand-to-hand combat.  Orders from further along the chain of command required a prisoner.  It was also regarded as important to know which regiments and battalions faced you on the other side of the battlefield.  Most ordinary soldiers, from first hand testimony kept in the Imperial War Museum, dreaded this kind of intelligence gathering not least because it was often seen as a waste of time and life.  Other testimony suggested that even if it didn’t gain the required information it was seen as a way of preventing ordinary soldiers from becoming trench bound and hardening them to the realities of No Man’s land – an eyebrow raising comment in these times.

On other occasions the aim was not to raid the trench and take a captive, the sole aim of this was often to find out which troops were in the field but simply to cut the wire, in advance of an attack or to listen to what was being said by the enemy – so a German speaking intelligence officer was presumably a helpful addition to a battalion.

Fans of the of black and white Sherlock Holmes films may know that Basil Rathbone, who played Holmes, was a battalion intelligence officer during the First World War.  This meant that twice a week he led patrols into no man’s land and then had to report on what he had found.  The report which Rathbone talked about in his autobiography was often vague but the idea was that not only should he observe what was happening in enemy lines but talk to different patrols and snipers and record what they had seen.   It was his responsibility to know the lay of the land and it is recorded in some instances that the intelligence officer placed markers in No Man’s land before his battalion attacked the enemy. It was also his responsibility to know what was happening and feed it back up the line.

In some cases it appears to have been the Intelligence Officer who kept the war diary which was not his role at all.  Different intelligence officers seem also to have had different skills which were not necessarily limited to intelligence gathering but which would have been useful additional skills.  Some had links with scouting and patrols which makes sense.  There is also evidence to suggest that some officers were trained to deal with signals but these were different branches of the service and would not have been performed by one officer.

For those who are interested A. A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh was a signals officer during World War One as was JRR Tolkien.  Milne was eventually withdrawn from the front line due to illness and spent the rest of the war as a different kind of intelligence officer in Whitehall dealing with propaganda.

Ultimately Rathbone suggested that night time patrols were of limited value.  He suggested something more radical. He found himself sent out during the daylight hours dressed in camouflage.  This involved going into No Man’s land before dawn and then staying very still indeed.  Rathbone was eventually rewarded with a Military Cross.

Other forms of intelligence gathering involved listening posts and, of course, the air force. Beach’s study of General Haig’s intelligence considers the way in which the British perceived the German Army and why they thought that they were winning in 1916.  He reflects on the way that the growth of intelligence gathering influenced strategy.

Beach, Jim. (2015)  Haig’s intelligence : GHQ and the German Army, 1918  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Rathbone, Basil. In and Out of Character.

 

 

Insanity, the law and asylums

bedlam hogarthThe word Bedlam comes from the Priory of St Mary at Bethlehem which was founded in London during the thirteenth century.  By 1377 it had become home to people suffering from mental illness or as the inhabitants were described at the time – “distracted persons.”  The law meanwhile was concerned that landowners were of sound mind and indeed the law continued to be concerned about property throughout the centuries.  By 1735 Hogarth was using Bedlam to end his social moral fable of the Rake’s Progress and the conditions in which patients found themselves were horrendous.

Fans of Poldark will no doubt have noted that the care of George Warleggan in the eighteenth century has to date not been kind following the death of his wife Elizabeth – he’s been half drowned, starved, restrained and leeched within an inch of his life.  However, this is not a post about the eighteenth century or earlier.  I want to look in this post  at the development of the law during the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century with a view to understanding the process by which women could become confined to a county mental hospital during the Great War.  This post is not a definitive guide – its research for my own nefarious reasons.  It would have to be said that the terminology by which mental health was described throughout history gives very little thought to the patients or their families.

By the end of the nineteenth century more than 70,000 patients had passed through the doors of an insane asylum of some kind or other.  Nationally there were 120 asylums.   The 1800 Criminal Lunatic Act was particularly interested in securing those people who wanted to assassinate the monarch and the criminally insane.  The 1808 County Asylum Act dealt with fund raising methods that combined taxation with public subscription.  The idea was that the poor insane should be removed from workhouses and prisons. The wealthy insane were being paid for by their families and resided in private sanitariums or were locked up in various secluded attic rooms (see Jane Eyre and The Woman in White for literary examples.)  Almost inevitably lunacy became a condition in many counties as a method of differentiating between the deserving and undeserving poor.  There was also the fact that men and women who behaved in a socially unacceptable way could be deemed to be mad and shut away, often for the rest of their lives.  Records reveal that many people spent their lives locked in asylums having been sent there for reasons other than madness, including in one instance for excessive shopping in her husband’s opinion.

Sneinton in Nottingham was the first asylum founded by a mixture of subscription and taxation. The county had not offered care of any kind for poor people suffering from mental health difficulties before that date.  The West Riding’s asylum opened in Wakefield in 1818 though its minutes date from 1814.  Further parliamentary acts defined lunacy, attempted to regulate private asylums and sought to monitor the health care provided – good practice and well meaning concern was mixed with what modern eyes would define as barbaric practice.

In 1828 an act required all pauper lunatics to be documented and certificated.  This in turn would mean that commissioners would be able to inspect institutions and people incorrectly placed in asylums would be released (in theory) and care could be monitored – gradually more humane treatment became more the norm although restraint remained common practice for a very long time as did incarcerating people not for mental health problems but for their socially unacceptable behaviour or for having the misfortune to be born with learning difficulties.

In 1845 county asylums became a legal obligation and the Lunacy Commissioners were appointed to oversee the running of asylums. It was only in 1890 with the passage of another act that county asylums began to move away from their pauper associations to begin their evolution to hospitals caring for all walks of life.

Interestingly Wakefield was one of the first asylums to employ therapeutic employment, though this was thanks to the enlightened attitude of Dr William Ellis who moved from Wakefield to Hanwell in 1832. Ellis was a believer in the benefits of outdoor work rather than the brutality espoused by earlier “mad doctors.”  It is perhaps for this reason that many of the Victorian asylums were set in beautiful grounds.  Hanwell is also an example of changing attitudes in terms of names.  It opened as an asylum in 1832 but became a hospital  in 1926 and was then completely renamed in a bid to dissociate itself from past stigma. Not that this has ever been successful as group memory lasts longer than a name change – The Garlands in Carlisle was guaranteed to make my mother-in-law concerned for the mental well being of anyone sent there irrelevant of the fact that it had long since been renamed and re-purposed.  Many hospitals were not only renamed but shut and then demolished during the later half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first century.  For example,  Derby’s mental hospital remains a building site although the twin brick entrances remain – architecturally it is helpfully described by Kelly’s Directory.

The Lunacy Act of 1890 covered admission to private asylums but did not change the 1845 Lunacy Act and 1853 Act for pauper lunatics – by which it meant anyone unable to earn the money to pay for their care – on the grounds they were confined or without sufficient wealth to fund their care as averse to the destitute. The Lunacy Act of 1845, required  two medical certificates signed by qualified medical doctors for admission to lunatic asylums. The qualified medical doctor could incidentally be a pharmacist.  In theory a JP or official should have organised the doctor to examine the person to be admitted but it seems as though this happened prior to the jp being involved. In practice it would appear that one doctor and a vicar would be enough to certify a poor person in some locations.   The 1890 Act required an additional “summary reception order” particularly in the case of private admissions. This was also known as  “legal certification.” The 1890 law stated, as an additional safeguard against wrongful committal, that a justice of the peace specially appointed, a county court judge, or a magistrate could issue legal certification for privately admitted patients.  There was a £50 fine for any institution that was found not to have followed the correct procedure. The 1890 act also applied a time limit to the the duration of a stay in a private asylum.  The 1890 act also ensured that a policy of licensing developed that would help to bring about the demise of private asylums.

The act of 1890 reflects the increasing opposition to private asylums following examples of wrongful confinement relating to inheritance and unhappy marriage etc but as is the way of these things people still wanted to get rid of difficult, embarrassing or inconvenient relations so there was a flurry of illegal nursing homes prosecutions during the period that followed. The problem still existed after the passage of the 1927 act pertaining to the care of people with mental health disorders.

In 1910 there were slightly more than a thousand criminal lunatics, approximately 10,500 private patients and a staggering 118,901 pauper lunatics.  The numbers would steadily rise until the 1950s.  The State was concerned about the growth of insanity in the poorer classes.  Amongst this number were people suffering from senility and dementia, epilepsy, melancholia, learning difficulties, moral insanity and congenital insanity.  The causes were variously listed as heredity, excessive drinking, syphilis, influenza apparently caused madness in 2.8% of cases, starvation and mental stress.  It was also recognised that the onset of puberty could trigger some mental illness. 53% of female private cases were because of childbirth.  Essentially the first six weeks of motherhood left rich women at risk of insanity but only 7.5 % of pauper women.

The Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 identified four categories of young person who might need to be managed and cared for – these included the feeble-minded and the moral imbecile. This rather effectively ruled out the requirement for medical certification as a parent or guardian just needed to petition for the person to be placed in an institution.

Feeble minded:  that is to say, persons in whose case there exists from birth or from an early age’ mental defectiveness not amounting to imbecility, yet  so pronounced that they require care, supervision, and control for their own protection or for the protection, of others, or, in the case of children,’ that they by reason of such defectiveness appear to be permanently incapable of receiving proper benefit from the instruction in ordinary schools.

Moral imbeciles: that is to say, persons who from an early age display some permanent mental defect coupled with strong viciously criminal propensities on which punishment has had little or no deterrent effect.
One of the identifiers for moral imbecility was to be in receipt of poor relief, unmarried and pregnant. In addition to two medical certificates testifying to lunacy the master of the asylum was also required to determine the sanity of the person being admitted.The chances of you being committed were much higher if you were a woman – hysteria covered a multitude of criteria as did “female disease.”
Have I got what I wanted? Yes – a woman without private means during the early years of the twentieth century could be detained as a pauper lunatic.  All that would be required would be a medical certificate signed by a doctor or a pharmacist stating that she had been examined at some point during the previous week and was deemed by them to be insane.  An order from a JP, vicar or poor law relief officer was also needed.  Once admitted there was no appeal.  Following the passage of the 1913 act even this became much easier to implement if a young woman was deemed to be a moral imbecile. She did not have to be under twenty-one.  If her behaviour was deemed morally imbecilic in that she demonstrated an inability to exercise self control she could be given a guardian who could arrange for her to be admitted to an institution based not on the word of a doctor but on the person appointed her guardian (I think I’ve understood it right but am more than happy to be corrected.)  Of course this was not to punish the woman but to provide a safeguard for society!  As mental hospitals closed down during the 1970s there were newspaper articles about women who had spent most of their adult lives in mental hospitals based on the fact that they had a child out of wedlock. 

Not immediately related but of a similar vein it is interesting to note that following World War One there is evidence of the State regulating women’s behaviour in terms of widows’ pensions which was a natural follow on from the separation allowances granted to military wives during the war. In theory the wife of an agricultural labourer could be financially more secure with the separation allowance than she had been before her husband became a soldier.  However, if she misbehaved herself this was removed.  Taken together with the concept of moral imbecility it is apparent that women were required to tow the line or that the State would step in to regulate their behaviour.  This would, of course, have depended on the people managing the system in a given area.
As I said at the start of this post – I’m looking for evidence to use elsewhere so it is one sided rather than balanced – and having found it I shall now go away and plot!

 

 

http://studymore.org.uk/mhhtim.htm#1920

Victorian Era Lunatic Asylums

“Lunacy In England And Wales.” The British Medical Journal, vol. 2, no. 2605, 1910, pp. 429–431. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25284642.
“Moral Imbecility And The Mental Deficiency Act.” The British Medical Journal, vol. 1, no. 2789, 1914, pp. 1316–1317. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25310285.

Showalter,  Elaine. (1987) The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980 London: Virago.

Takabyashi, Akinobu.  “Surviving the Lunacy Act of 1890: English Psychiatrists and Professional Development during the Early Twentieth Century” . 2017 Apr; 61(2): 246–269 accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5426304/

 

The development of policing

Sir_Robert_Peel,_2nd_Bt_by_Henry_William_Pickersgill-detailPolicing has always had rules attached to it.  In theory if a crime was identified in the medieval period hue and cry had to be raised thus ensuring decent law abiding citizens turned into a pitchfork wielding mob looking for the stranger in their midst in order to avoid being fined by the local lord or the monarch.  Gradually officialdom became involved – initially on an enterprising basis with thief takers which generally speaking is a polite historical term for bounty hunter.  In urban areas there were also parish constables and night watchmen.

Things started to be more regularised by foundation of the Bow Street Runners.  The Metropolitan Police was founded in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel pictured at the start of this post.  They were responsible for keeping law and order in London as well as policing Windsor Castle.  The square mile of the City of London was, and still is (I think), policed by its own force.

Elsewhere the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 allowed local councils to set up their own police forces.  The detective branch of the Metropolitan Police followed in 1842.  Inspector Whicher – as in the “Suspicions of Mr Whicher” was one of its orginal members.  New Scotland Yard was founded in 1890 in the aftermath of the Jack the Ripper case that began in 1888.

As the Metropolitan police developed other areas developed their own constabularies.  Mostly the newly founded police forces were urban. Halifax was one of the first areas to have a police force founded in 1848 along with an accompanying Watch Committee. Gradually a network of police forces spread across the countryside. For example in Derbyshire there were eight divisions of police sited at: Ashbourne, Bakewell, Belper, Chesterfield, Derby, Glossop, Melbourne and Matlock.

At the same time that various police forces were being established around the country moving the transport police were also evolving to meet the needs of the Railway Age.

In 1913 the Government increased the capacity of the police force by setting up a police reserve of retired officers who were retained on an annual fee so long as they were still able to do the job of a constable.  A second reserve was to be made up from volunteers. The Special Constable Act of 1914 allowed these volunteers to be appointed as Special Constables.  This was probably just as well because there were numbers of territorials as well as reservists in the regular ranks.  Such was the pressure on the London force that women were admitted to the ranks for the first time.

The  Metropolitan Police Roll of Honour is in Westminster Abbey. More than four thousand of the twenty two thousand officers serving in 1914 joined the armed forces.  Of that number 864 were killed or wounded.

The pay that a policeman received had been kept deliberately low since the founding of the service as a means of keeping the police on a level with the communities they served. But by the end of the Great War many men were working long hours for very little pay.  Wages for long serving officers were less than the average rate for agricultural labour. This resulted in the police strike of 1918.  Matters were compounded by the fact that each local area had a watch Committee that set the terms of pay and conditions for their local force.

The problem was  that by the end of 1918 the Government was rather alarmed about the police being unionised as they made the connection to revolutionary Russia – they had been less concerned by the fact that a poorly paid police force might have been susceptible to the odd back hander.  As a result of  establishment fears the Police Act of 1919 was passed which made it illegal to join a union, though the Police Federation was created as an alternative. Men who went on strike after the passage of the act faced immediate dismissal.

 

https://www.oldpolicecellsmuseum.org.uk/content/history/police_history/police_strike_1918-1919