The man who made priest holes

DSC_0094.jpgYesterday I found myself in the garderobe, sliding into a small space, ducking my head to avoid a low beam and then straightening to find myself in a priest hole.  Fortunately for me no one was going to slam the lid back into place and leave me in total darkness until it was safe for me to emerge or I was discovered and dragged off to the Tower.  I was enjoying a sunny afternoon at Oxborough Hall.

 

DSC_0093.jpg

During the reign of Elizabeth I Jesuits priests were feared as enemies of the state and hunted down by pursuivants.  Catholic priests moved from Catholic household to catholic household, often purporting to be cousins or other distant relations.  Wealthy families built hiding places in their homes so that when the priest hunters came calling there was somewhere to hide their illicit guest.

DSC_0092.jpg

The most successful priest holes were built by Nicholas Owen – not that he built the hole at Oxborough. Owen, an Oxfordshire man, was born in 1562.  He had three siblings one was a Catholic priest and another printed illegal Catholic books.  The brothers’ father was a carpenter and Nicholas in his turn was apprenticed to a joiner.  By the time he was in his mid twenties he was working for Father Henry Garnet and had become a lay brother in the Jesuit order.  He suffered from ill health including a limp from a poorly set bone and a hernia. Despite his physical frailty he travelled from house to house constructing priest holes.   Most of the people he worked for didn’t know his real name – to them he was Little John.  He worked by night in total secrecy to create his hiding places.  Many of the priest holes were so well concealed that they were only discovered in later centuries when houses underwent renovation.  Unfortunately the occasional hole is still found with its occupant still in situ.

 

Owen’s favoured locations seem to have been behind fireplaces and under stairs.  The pursuivants were men who could judge if an interior wall looked shorter than an exterior wall so Owen had to be very careful as to where he located his priest holes.

 

Nicholas was a man strong in faith.  He was eventually captured in 1606 at Hindlip Hall in Worcestershire in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot.  It is thought he allowed himself to be captured in order to distract attention from Father Henry Garnet who was hiding nearby.

There were rules about torturing people with disabilities but this didn’t stop Robert Cecil from demanding that Owen be taken to the Tower and taxed about his knowledge by Topcliffe.  He was racked.  This caused his intestines to bulge out through his hernia.  Topcliffe ordered that they be secure by a metal plate. This cut into the hernia and he bled to death in his cell. He died rather than give away his secrets and the lives of the men who depended upon him keeping them.  The State announced that he had committed suicide.

St Nicholas Owen was canonised in 1970 and is the patron saint of illusionists and escape artists.

san-nicolas-owen.jpg

Hogge Alice.  God’s Secret Agents

Reynolds, Tony. (2014) St Nicholas Owen: Priest Hole Maker

https://soul-candy.info/2012/03/mar-22-st-nicholas-owen-sj-d-1606-martyr-artist-builder-of-hiding-places-for-priests/

Illegitimate but loyal – the FitzJames family

220px-Arabella_ChurchillArabella Churchill was the mistress of the Duke of York for about ten years as well as being one of Anne Hyde’s ladies-in-waiting.  Arabella had four children by James.

Henrietta was the eldest of the siblings.  She married Henry Waldegrave, the son of a cavalier in 1683.  He was the Comptroller of James’ household.  Unlike her legitimate half-siblings Henrietta was raised as a Catholic and accompanied her father into exile along with Henry Waldegrave who died the following year.  She eventually married for a second time to Piers Butler, Viscount Galmoye but not before she’d had a fling with one of Ireland’s  wild geese. Through her first marriage she is an ancestor of Princess Diana.

Henrietta’s brother James, the most famous of Arabella’s FitzJames children, was raised in France and entered the service of Louis XIV.  He returned to England where he became an officer in the Blues at his father’s instigation.  In fact he was due to replace the protestant Earl of Oxford – an example of James’ strategy of giving key roles to Catholics – a strategy which helped to trigger the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  When men like John Churchill deserted James at Salisbury and went over to William of Orange, James remained loyal to his father and went to Ireland where the fight for the Crown continued before going into exile in France where he rejoined Louis XIV’s army.  His was a complicated life given that he found himself on the opposite side to his uncle, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough.  Henry became a marshal in the french army and counselled his father not to trust John Churchill.  At one point he was captured by another his Churchill uncles and only released when exchanged with a French prisoner.  He became the Duke of Berwick but its a Jacobite title rather than one recognised by the English peerage.  He was killed in 1733, aged 63, by a passing cannon ball having refused to take part in the Jacobite rising of 1715. The Dukedom of Alba continued as a Spanish title.

A second Fitzjames boy, Henry, died in 1702 in France whilst the youngest FitzJames sibling, called Arabella born in 1674 opted to become a nun in Pontoise.  She took the name Ignatia.

Arabella Churchill married Charles Godfrey circa 1674.  She went on to have forty years of happy married life and three more children.  Godfrey was a colonel and a Whig – so anti-Jacobite.  In an already complicated family it is perhaps not surprising to learn that the FitzJames’ stepfather was one of the first men to join with William of Orange.  He would serve in various positions within the royal household as well as becoming an MP. Arabella outlived him by some sixteen years dying at the age of eighty in 1730.

 

Preston Tower and it’s builder – from murderer to warden of the east march

preston towerIn 1415 there were about 78 peel or pele towers in Northumberland.  These towers were essentially private fortifications for protection in the event of Scottish raids – or neighbours you  didn’t necessarily agree with.  The idea was that you could secure your family and portable valuables until it was safe to emerge or help arrived – beacons were kept on the top of the towers which could be lit to summon help and to worn the surrounding countryside of danger. Preston tower 1

Peel towers were an architecture that resulted from the Scottish Wars of Independence.  Some of the peel towers were not ordinarily used as dwellings – rather they should be considered refuges in times of trouble whilst at the other end of the spectrum places like Aydon Castle near Hexham resemble castles.

Preston Tower was built by Sir Robert Harbottle at the end of the fourteenth century.  Sir Robert was a man of his time.  He was part of the affinity of Sir Mathew Radmayne of Levens and rose in Redmayne’s service.  When Harbottle murdered a man in Methley in Yorkshire in 1392 it was Redmayne and his successor who secured Harbottle’s pardon.

You’d have thought that Harbottle would have kept his head down but it wasn’t long before he came to the attention of the law once again when he took part in a raid on the Yorkshire property of Isabel Fauconberg stealing her property as well as the property of her tenants.   A commission was set up to investigate but somehow or other Harbottle escaped the consequence of his crimes once more.

Henry IV,  having taken the crown from his cousin Richard II, made him constable of Dunstanburgh Castle in 1399 – clearly not having read his cv beforehand.  He even managed to acquire one of the wardenship of the east march – essentially turning Harbottle into the law.  Perhaps it’s not surprising that since he did so well from the Red Rose monarchs that Harbottle was loyal to both Henry IV and Henry V even when the Percy family rebelled against them.  Having bagged himself an heiress in the form of Isabel Monbourcher,  Harbottle had risen from henchman to man of wealth and influence.  When Hotspur rebelled against Henry IV, Harbottle was able to claim a better share of his wife’s inheritance  – so it would appear that luck was on his side as well.

In between times Harbottle had served in Henry IV’s army in 1400 against the Scots and became a member for parliament.  In short he had become part of the gentry in the north and had a good stout peel tower to prove it.

Preston Tower has walls which are over two metres thick, is three storeys high and has rooms off the main chamber at each level.  It was described by Pevsner as one of the best bits of medieval architecture in the country.

 

https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/member/harbottle-robert-1419

Caroline of Ansbach – how to get your husband to do what you want him to do!

Caroline of Ansbach

I came across an old Jean Plaidy novel – I haven’t read one for years but, unusually, being short of a book I started reading and am hooked – I may even start to take a more lively interest in the Hanoverians so long as I don’t get mired in Whigs and Tories.

Caroline was George II’s wife.   The thing that’s impossible to escape in the fictional account is that Caroline spends a lot of time pretending to be rather dim whilst actually manipulating her husband, George II, in terms of political decision making.

Inevitably I’ve gone off to the history books to find out more. George I and George, then Prince of Wales, had an almighty row and as a consequence George and Caroline were sent away from court.  Even worse Caroline was separated from her daughters.  She’d already had to leave her son Frederick in Hanover when the family came to England in 1714.

George I died in 1727  at which point George II became king. Caroline formed an alliance with Walpole who held a substantial majority in Parliament.  Initially they formed an alliance about the amount that the civil list would pay.  During the rest of her life  they persuaded the king to do what Walpole wanted.  This meant that Caroline had some sort of say in what happened in England.  Lord Hervey, Walpole’s political opponent cultivated the king’s mistress and discovered that it didn’t get him very far at all.

Caroline arrived in England as Princess of Wales when George, Elector of Hanover became king of England in 1714.  She immediately became the most important woman at court because George I was short of a queen.  George I had locked his wife, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, (who was also George’s first cousin)  in Ahlden Castle.  She’d been there since 1694  on account of her affair with  Count von Königsmarck.  The count was rather more unfortunate – his body was apparently disposed of in a river. Sophia Dorothea died in 1726.  George did bring his half sister and his mistress with him but they hardly counted in terms of the court scene, even though they did gain the names of the Elephant and the Maypole based on their looks.

Initially her court was almost separate from that of her husband – this wasn’t unusually what was different was that she filled it with intellectuals.  This must have come as a bit of a surprise after Queens Mary and Anne who weren’t known for their brains.  She  deliberately sought out Sir Issac Newton and was friends with Jonathan Swift.  She also set about trying to improve the lives of the people of England. In 1722 she had all of her children inoculated against small pox – using a cow pox vaccine making the whole thing wildly fashionable.  I’m less sure how warmly I feel about the fact that she had all the foundlings in London’s Foundling hospital inoculated before her own children.

Lucy Worsley says that she was the cleverest queen consort to sit on the throne.  Walpole commented that he’d taken the “right sow by the ear” when he chose to work with her.  Certainly when George went back to Hanover he trusted her sufficiently for her to rule as regent, during which time she wanted a closer look at the penal code of the time.  She was liberal in thought and behaviour and demonstrated compassion not only to the country’s imprisoned masses but also tried to plead leniency for the Jacobites in 1715.

Most important of all was that she was able to soothe George’s ruffled feathers, make him believe her words were his ideas and withstand his rudeness to her in public.  Whilst she had her husband fooled the public weren’t so easily hoodwinked:

You may strut, dapper George but ’twill all be in vain:

We know ’tis Queen Carline, not you, that reign.

The truth was that everyone apart from her husband knew that she was an intelligent and able consort.

Was she a successful queen?  The terms by which queen consorts are judged are not by their capacity to manipulate their spouses but by the children they produce.  Caroline was pregnant on at least ten occasions and had eight children. She’d already had a son and three daughters by the time she became Princess of Wales.  Her favourite son was William whom history calls Butcher Cumberland.  Together with her husband she didn’t much like her eldest son Frederick and was horrible to both him and his wife continuing a Hanoverian traction that would be maintained throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Caroline who had become rather overweight in later years died in November 1737 from a strangulated bowel  that was in part the product of poor treatment after the birth of her youngest child.  She underwent several rather unpleasant operations without any painkillers, although she did apparently find the fact that her surgeon managed to set his wig on fire with a candle rather amusing. She finally died  whilst holding her husband’s hand.

 

George II announced that no other woman he knew was fit to buckle her shoe – though that hadn’t stopped him from having many mistresses during their marriage or telling Caroline that she should love one mistress because the mistress loved him.

Dennison, Mathew. The First Iron Lady

http://www.lucyworsley.com/poor-queen-caroline-and-her-horrible-death/

 

The Holland family -from medieval gentry to dukes – part one.

220px-Thomas_Holland_1430.jpgThe story of the Holland family begins with Robert de Holland from Upholland in Lancashire.  He was born about 1283. He was a trusted part of Thomas of Lancaster’s household.  He benefitted from being within the Lancaster affinity by acquiring land as well as a wife in the form of Maud de Zouche – a co-heiress.

He fought at Boroughbridge in 1322 but not on the side of the earl who was in rebellion against his cousin the king.  This may well have been because Edward II was holding one of Robert’s daughters hostage at the time. However, the Lancaster faction were not quick to forgive the fact that the second earl was executed in Pontefract soon after the battle and that Robert, one of his most trusted men, had been a traitor to the earl’s cause.

Thomas of Lancaster was succeeded by his younger brother – Henry of Lancaster. Time passed.  On 15 October 1328 Robert Holland, or Holand, was at Borehamwood.  Unfortunately so were a number of Lancaster supporters.  There was an argument.  Robert was beheaded.

Thomas, Robert’s eldest son pictured at the start of this post in his garter robes, served Edward III. He was a man of no substantial wealth.  His mother Maud had to borrow money so he could be outfitted as a knight. However, it would appear that Thomas had a great deal of charm, not to mention nerve and persistence.  He wooed and won Edward III’s young cousin Joan of Kent.  They married in a secret exchange of vows when she was eleven or twelve.  He was more than ten years older than Joan.  It would take another nine years, a bigamous marriage and a papal decree before he was allowed to live with his bride.

Thomas’s fortunes really changed when Joan’s brother died.  He had no other heirs so Joan became the Countess of Kent in her own right (suo jure).  Thomas effectively became an earl through the right of his wife.  Thomas who had a proven military  track record by this time now had the money and the position in society to fulfil a leading military role in the Hundred Years War. Thomas and Joan’s eldest son another Thomas became a baron after his father’s death but did not become the 2nd Holland Earl of Kent until Joan died in 1385.

wiz33vab_medium.jpgThomas died in December 1360.  The following year his widow married her cousin Edward, the Black Prince.  The Holland children now had access to patronage with a very heavy clout.  Thomas (Joan’s son) gained a wealthy and aristocratic bride from the FitzAlan family.   More importantly it was the Hollands’ half-brother, Richard, who ascended the throne after Edward III died in 1377.

Thomas and John Holland were loyal to their half brother, Richard II, and benefited from their close ties – John even managed to get away with murder.  The Holland family found themselves spouses from some of the wealthiest families in the country, had the ear and trust of the Crown and continued to thrive whilst Richard II was on the throne.  The second earl’s son, another Thomas not only became the 3rd Earl of Kent but from 1397 the 1st Duke of Surrey.  This was a reward for loyalty.  Thomas had arrested his FitzAlan uncle on behalf of his royal uncle Richard II.   Perhaps because he felt a bit guilty about it he the founded of Mount Grace Priory in Yorkshire the following year.

It is perhaps unsurprising that when Richard II was deposed by Henry of Bolingbroke – Richard’s first cousin and the Hollands’ first cousin once removed- that they found themselves being demoted.  The dukedom had to be handed back.  As a consequence Thomas Holland the 3rd earl of Kent became involved with the Epiphany Rising of 1400.  He was executed.  He had no children.

holland1exeter.jpg0bea27da411458b11f502fb7d52aad65.jpgThomas’s uncle John (Joan’s second son) was executed at the same time.  John Holland had married another wealthy royal cousin, Elizabeth of Lancaster (John of Gaunt’s daughter).  This may have been because of the Black Prince’s patronage and it may have been because his mother Joan of Kent got on well with her cousin John of Gaunt.  John became Earl of Huntingdon in 1388 and in 1397 became the Duke of Exeter.  He was also involved in removing Richard II’s enemies.  In John’s case not only had he arrested his uncle Richard FitzAlan (the 11th Earl of Arundel) he has gone to Calais to arrest Thomas of Woodstock, Richard’s youngest Royal uncle. Thomas had died whilst in Calais as pictured in Froissart – the story involves a mattress…

When Richard II fell from power John was stripped of his dukedom but was allowed to retain his earldom by his brother-in-law the new king Henry IV.  This double relationship did not stop John from being involved in the Epiphany Rising of 1400 nor did it prevent his execution.

For the moment the fortunes of the Holland family looked bleak. It would continue to be dubious until 1415 when John Holland’s son, another John, would be able to regain the dukedom of Exeter from Henry V after the Battle of Agincourt. He would also continue the family tradition of marrying someone who was a cousin in a degree that required papal dispensation and which kept his family close to the line of succession!

Hicks, Michael.  Whose who in Medieval History

P.S. A family tree will be forthcoming at some point soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Newcastle’s Lambs

battle of Marson moor.jpgAt the beginning of the English Civil War, in 1642,  William  Cavendish of Bolsover and Welbeck Abbey who was the Earl of Newcastle at that time gave Charles I £10,00 and raised a troop of 200 horsemen. In June of that year William was sent to secure Newcastle.  He was on his way to becoming the king’s general in the north and about to start a military dance with Lord Ferndinado Fairfax and his son Sir Thomas Fairfax that would only end in 1644.  Not that it was all plain sailing.  The slide to war met with opposition and not every local lord was keen on Cavendish’s recruitment campaign.

Cavendish summoned his tenants and the trained bands of the North. They came largely from Northumbria at the beginning of the conflict- remember he was also Earl Ogle – his mother was Catherine Ogle.  He kitted them out in a new uniform – the coats were undyed because, according to Margaret Cavendish’s biography of her husband, the soldiers asked for them to be left white so that they could dye them in the blood of their enemies.  They were also kitted out with caps of  so-called Scots’ blue.  The “whitecoats” or “lambs” had an identity that was immediately recognisable on the battle field.

In total there would be seven divisions of Whitecoats. Their first action might have been against the trained Bands of Durham who seemed to have had a falling out with the men left by Cavendish whilst he went on to Newcastle to secure it for the king.  The earl went back to Durham and smoothed ruffled feathers.  One of the men from the Durham trained bands stated that he liked the earl well enough but not his soldiers.

At first the Royalists dominated the war in the north. They first saw action at Tadcaster and the following year (30 June 1643) at the Battle of Adwalton Moor. The battle initially went against the royalists because of the position that Fairfax held on a ridge and because Newcastle didn’t have enough musketeers but ultimately there was a final push of pike led by the wonderfully named Colonel Posthumous Kirton – you may not have royalist sympathies but what’s not to love about the name Posthumous Kirton! Kirton’s attack ultimately caused the Parliamentary left wing to collapse. The war continued and Newcastle’s Regiment of Foot fought where it was required in the North, Yorkshire and the Midlands, but there is surprisingly little information on its exact movements.

The Whitecoats saw action at the sieges of Hull and Gainsborough as well in 1644 of York – when they were being besieged and repulsed the Parliamentarian forces when they breached the walls at St Mary’s Tower by mining it. The tide had turned against the Royalists in 1644 when the Scots became involved.  This was why Newcastle was forced back into Yorkshire.

Rupert of the Rhine arrived to relieve York on the 1st July 1644 but took charge of the army and insisted on fighting the Parliamentarians.  On the following morning he led his own men out onto Marston Moor between Tockwith and Long Marston. The Whitecoats joined Rupert at 4pm having spent the day looting what was left on the Parliamentarian siege line.  The earl arrived in his carriage.  Aside from a little skirmishing the two armies faced one another and waited.  Rupert will have been able to work out that his army was smaller than that of Parliament – by some 10,000.  By 7 pm the Royalists decided that there wasn’t going to be a battle that day so settled down for the evening.  There was also a thunderstorm.  At which point the Parliamentarian army attacked.  It didn’t all go Parliament’s way.  Thomas Fairfax had to make his way through the Royalist lines on his own at one point. Victory really belonged to Oliver Cromwell who turned his wing in an arc behind the Royalist force.

Marston-Moor.jpg

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 16.59.48.pngAt the Battle of Marston Moor Newcastle’s Regiment of Foot were killed almost to a man.  They remained in formation in the centre of the Royalist line  and it is thought defended White Syke Close. The Parliamentarians recognising their bravery asked for their surrender but the regiment refused. By the time the Whitecoats died the battle was already lost – their deaths were futile. They were buried in mass graves where they fell.  If you walk the route of the Battle of Marston Moor White Syke Close is marked on the ordinance survey map. Alternatively take advantage of a Country File walk which outlines the battle and leads you on a circular walk,  https://www.countryfile.com/go-outdoors/walks/marston-moor-north-yorkshire/  The Battle Fields Trust website has information about the battle and the site today.

It is thought that William Cavendish was the last Royalist commander left on the battle field.  Personally brave but not necessarily charismatic he arrived in Scarborough the following morning where he boarded a vessel bound for Hamburg.  He had £90.  Upon arrival he borrowed £160 and set off for Paris and Henrietta Maria. At the family seat of Welbeck Abbey his daughters would have to face a Parliamentarian force, hide the family plate and get some of their father’s art collection to safety.

The image of the Battle of Marston Moor was painted in 1819 by Abraham Cooper.   He painted a second image of the battle in 1824 entitled  Rupert’s Standard.

 

I would politely remind you that I am not a battle field historian although I can describe key moments in some of the battles of both the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War.  I can also tell you that it is incredibly easy to get lost on Marston Moor even when armed with a map and book of war walks – although a couple of  fully costumed re-enactors emerging out of the morning mist is certainly enough to make you sit up and pay attention.

Error note

Louis the 18th of the previous post  should be Louis 13th of France – The Roman numerals got me. I can’t see the difference in pattern at all which is a bit of a surprise and probably shouldn’t be – He Who Is Occasionally Obeyed had to make the change in the end.  Thank you to those who noted my error with kindness and thank you to those who skimmed over it thinking she’s having one of “those” moments.  I do rely on my readers spotting glaring spelling mistakes and I am very grateful.

 

Halifax venue in May update

the history jarThis post is for all of you lovely folk who come to my classes in Halifax – so if you’re reading this on the other side of the world, my apologies.  As you will probably be aware, having been made homeless due to a change in ownership of our usual venue, I was fortunate to be able to book the Learning Studio in the Piece Hall for the March and April day schools but struggled to find a venue for May.

This has now been remedied with a slight amendment in date.  The course will now run on:

  Wednesday 22nd May 2019  10.00am-3.30 pm

 The Calderdale Industrial Museum

The Calderdale Industrial Museum can be found on Square Road, Halifax, HX1 1QG. http://calderdaleindustrial.co.uk/contact-and-find/

The last course of the season is set in the seventeenth century and particularly topical to the West Riding.

Thomas Fairfax- A Yorkshireman’s Civil War

 

thomas fairfaxWe will explore Fairfax’s role in the Bishops’ War and the Fairfax position in the escalating dispute between King and Parliament before following his progress from Seacroft Moor to Adwalton.

 

We will chart Fairfax’s swift progression through the first and second civil wars from local politics to the national scene. From there we will move on to the trial of the king, regicide and the establishment of a republic. We will consider his role at Colchester and Burford.

 

We will explore Fairfax’s relationship with his wife Anne the key political figures of the period and also Fairfax’s literary contributions.

The course can be booked by clicking on the “Day Schools Halifax” page or by contacting me.

New Year’s day

janusAnd a very happy new year to you all.  Of course in Scotland before 1600 that would have been 25th March – legally speaking.  In England the law wasn’t changed until 1750 when the New Style Calendar Act changed the legal new year and accepted the Gregorian Calendar. The act passed into law in 1751 meaning that 1751 had only 282 days running from 25th March to 31st December. This didn’t mean people didn’t celebrate January 1st it simply meant that the law deemed the new year to begin in March. Its the reason some official documents don’t seem to be able to make their mind up between January and March what the year actually was and provide both option Old Style and New Style.

Pope Gregory XIII had introduced his modified calendar with leap year in 1582.  It was adopted by Catholic countries whilst the Protestant countries continued with the Julian Calendar – that eleven day differential must have made things lively for merchants.  And of course historians!

Meanwhile if you were feeling very festive you could celebrate christmas all over again Old Style on the 5th of January.  As time passes the difference between the  dates on the Julian and the Gregorian calendar will continue to grow making the eleven days more redundant than ever.

The image is from a medieval manuscript depicting the Roman god Janus looking to both the past and the future.

drummers drumming and pipers piping

VIuwyMU.jpgPercussion has been used on the battle field for a very long time not only to control the marching pace of soldiers but also to pass commands and create fear in the opposing army. Apparently the  Europeans learned about drums as a military technique during the Crusades when Saladin used military bands. The crusaders found them somewhat off-putting and recorded as much in their chronicles.  The Ottomans are known to have continued the tradition.  Kettle drums found their way to Spain which was part of the Ottoman empire until the fifteenth century.

A look at the accounts reveals that Edward I and Edward III had drummers on their payrolls.  Not only did they use their drummers on the battle field but they used the drum to indicate that they were about to arrive – fanfare like.

The tabor was a medieval drum which is derived from the French word tambour.  It could be played one handed.  It’s modern equivalent is the snare drum.  By the eighteenth century the fife had entered the equation although we do still tend to think of the underage drummer boy. Ultimately the drum would be replaced by the bugle for passing commands. It should be added that the Saracens had used a form of bugle to signal the start of battle.  It was noted by chroniclers in 1191. However, the drum and ‘to follow the drum’ had become synonymous with the army.  Regimental drums were almost as important as their colours.

Meanwhile it turns out that bagpipes have long been classified as a weapon of war. Essentially in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion James Reid declared that he had never borne arms for Bonnie Prince Charlie – he’d only played the bagpipes. At  which point the court sitting in York constituted the bagpipes a weapon of war and hanged Reid. The law was finally revoked in 1996 in a dispute over whether it was lawful to play the pipes on common land or not.

Rather than 12 pipers it seems appropriate to finish 2018 with reference to the 2500 pipers from Britain and the Commonwealth nations who served in the trenches during World War One.  These men received an extra penny a day to be the first over the top into no man’s land.  They were unarmed aside from their pipes. Half of them were killed as they strode into the mud, slaughter and machine gun fire.

The Flowers of the Forest was written as a lament after the Battle of Flodden in 1513.  Its words remain appropriate to these brave men:

The Flowers of the Forest, that foucht aye the foremost,
The prime o’ our land are cauld in the clay.

We’ll hae nae mair lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Women and bairns are dowie and wae.
Sighing and moaning, on ilka green loaning,
The Flowers of the forest are all wede away.

 

Blades, James. Percussion Instruments and their history.