Category Archives: Rebellious London

The end of the First Barons’ War (1217)

HENRYIII

The First Barons’ War ended on this day in 1217.  The war had broken out in  1215, when it became clear that King  John  had no intention of abiding  by the terms of the Magna Carta.   When John died in 1216, the barons  refused to recognise his son Henry III as King, and instead supported  the rival claim to the title of the French King Philippe II’s son Louis, also known as the Dauphin (*).  The Dauphin and barons  then suffered a heavy military defeat at the Battle of Lincoln in 1217, after which they were forced to retreat to their power-base in London, there  to await reinforcements from France, which in the event never arrived, the transporting  fleet  being intercepted en route (**).  There, the  Dauphin   agreed to  relinquish  his claim to England and end the war, by signing the so-called Treaty of Lambeth, brokered by William Marshall, later in 1217.  In exchange, the barons and people were given back the liberties that had been taken away under John’s unjust rule.

(*) Henry III had actually already been crowned – in Gloucester – late the previous year.  He would go on to be crowned again  in Westminster in 1220.

(**) Incidentally, two prominent Londoners were captured at the battle, namely  the aforementioned Robert FitzWalter, formerly of Baynard’s Castle, and Richard de Montfichet, of Montfichet’s Tower, both of which  had been demolished on John’s orders after the baronial conspiracy of 1212, in which FitzWalter had been implicated.

The Battle of Flodden Field, and the bizarre tale of the King’s Head (1513)

St Michael Wood Street

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Flodden Field, one of the bloodiest ever fought on British soil, between the English and the Scots, which took place in 1513.  According to Stow, in his “Survay of London written in the Year 1598”, sometime after the battle, the decapitated head of the defeated Scottish King, James IV, ended up being buried in  the church of St Michael, Wood Street, just off Cheapside (*). The church was later  burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666, rebuilt  by Christopher Wren between 1670-75, and modified  in 1887-88, only to be demolished in 1897. Nothing remains of it at its former site, now occupied by a public house – called not the “King’s Head” but the  “Red Herring”!

(*) The relevant part of the text reads more-or-less in full as follows:

“There is …  , … without any outward monument, the head of James, the fourth king of Scots of that name, slain at Flodden field, and buried here by this occasion: After the battle the body of the said king being found, was enclosed in lead, and conveyed … to the monastery of Shene in Surrey … .  Since the which time workmen there, for their foolish pleasure, hewed of his head; and Lancelot Young, master glazier to her majesty [Elizabeth I], … seeing the same dried from all moisture, and yet the form remaining, with the hair of the head, and beard red, brought it to London to his house in Wood Street, where for a time he kept it … , but in the end caused the sexton of that church to bury it amongst other bones … ”.

Roman London – The Boudiccan Revolt (60/61)

Boadicea (3).JPG

Roman London  was razed to the ground  by revolting ancient Britons under Boudica or Boudicca (Boadicea of the Victorian re-imagining), the   Queen of the Iceni,  in 60 or 61, while the legions under the Governor Suetonius Paulinus were away attacking  the druid stronghold on  Anglesey.  Tacitus wrote:  “The inhabitants … who stayed because they were women, or old, or attached to the place, were slaughtered … .  … For the British … could not wait to cut throats, hang, burn and crucify – as though avenging, in advance, the retribution that was on its way (*)”.

(*) At the so-called Battle of Watling Street, the precise location of which remains unknown.

Ambresbury Banks.JPG

One of the many purported locations for the battle is Ambresbury Banks in Epping Forest.

The execution of Sir Thomas More (1535)

3 - Holbein's portrait of More

On this day in 1535, the former Lord Chancellor, also lawyer, humanist, social philosopher, author (of “Utopia”) and “Man for All Seasons” Sir, now Saint,  Thomas More was beheaded on  Tower Hill  for High Treason,  for refusing to take an oath acknowledging the King, Henry VIII, rather than the Pope, as the Supreme Head of the Church in England (being  “the king’s good servant, but God’s first”).

His son-in-law William Roper wrote of the event:

“And soe was he brought by Mr Lievetenaunt out of the Towre, and thence led towards the place of execution, where goinge upp the Scaffold, which was so weake that it was readie to fall, he sayde … ‘I pray you, I pray you, Mr Lievetenaunt, see me safe upp, and for my cominge downe let mee shift for my selfe’.  Then desired he all the people thereaboutes to pray for him, and to beare witnesse with him, that he should suffer death in and for the faith of the holie Catholique Church, which done hee kneeled downe, and after his prayers sayed, hee turned to the executioner, and with a cheerful Countenance spake unto him, ‘Plucke up thy spirittes, man, and be not affrayed to do thine office … ’.  Soe passed Sir Thomas Moore out of this world to God … ”.

More’s  headless corpse was buried in an unmarked grave in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London.  His head was put on a pike on London Bridge.  It was later retrieved by his daughter Meg Roper, the wife of William, and buried in the Roper family vault in the church of St Dunstan in Canterbury.

1 - Plaque marking site of More's birthplace on Milk Street

2 - Plaque marking site of More's execution on Tower Hill.jpg

There are plaques in the City marking the sites of More’s birth on Milk Street and of his death on Tower Hill.

4 - Statue of More on Carey Street

5 - Statue of More outside Chelsea Old Church

6 - Memorial to More in Chelsea Old Church.JPG

There are  also statues of him to the west of the City, one on Carey Street just off Chancery Lane, and another outside Chelsea Old Church; and a  memorial to him inside Chelsea Old Church.

7 - The rebuilt Crosby Hall in Chelsea.JPG

Crosby Hall, where he lived between 1523-4, was moved from its past location in Bishopsgate to its present one opposite Chelsea Old Church in 1910.

The Tower of London, where More was executed, is visited, although not entered, on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and on our “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights”, “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights” and “Rebellious London”   themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

London’s Inns of Court and the Founding of the United States of America

London’s Inns of Court

The right of Englishmen to trial by jury was  established in the late twelfth century, and  codified in the  Magna Carta in  the early thirteenth; and the right to legal counsel and representation, by attorneys (solicitors) and pleaders before court (barristers), at the turn of the  thirteenth and  fourteenth.

Formal training of pleaders before court, in the so-called Inns of Court,  strategically situated between the Cities of London to the east and Westminster to the west,  began in the fourteenth century (see also March 11th posting).

The Inns of Court of the Inner and Middle Temple were founded in the early fourteenth century, on a site south of Fleet Street that had been occupied by the Knights Templar up until the time of their suppression in 1307.  No  Medieval buildings remain standing on the site today, although the post-Medieval Inner Temple Gate-House and  Middle Temple Hall do.

Gray’s Inn was founded in the late fourteenth century, on a site north and immediately south of High Holborn.  No   Medieval buildings remain standing on the site today, although the associated Barnard’s Inn Hall does, as does the associated post-Medieval Staple Inn Buildings.

Lincoln’s Inn was founded in its present location in the fifteenth century, on a site south of High Holborn (it was originally founded in a remote location in the fourteenth century).    No Medieval buildings remain standing on the site today, although the post-Medieval Gate-House, Old Hall and Chapel do.

The Founding of the United States of America

Historically, London’s Inns of Court played a formative, though little-known, role in the founding of the United States of America.   William Taft (1857-1930), the sometime Chief Justice and President of the United States, noted that “many of the law officers of the Colonies … , appointed by the Crown before the Revolution, were members of … [the Inns of Court]”, and that the Inns were thus instrumental in “instilling in the communities of the Colonies the principles of Common Law”.  Others have even suggested that the principles of secession also came from the Inns.

statue-of-bacon-in-grays-inn

The famous lawyer, statesman, philosopher and “natural philosopher” (what we would now call a scientist), all-round Renaissance Man Francis Bacon (1561-1626) received his legal training in Gray’s Inn, and went on to become a “Master of the Bench”, or member of the governing body, there (among other things).  He was one of those instrumental in the creation of the first English colonies in the Americas in the early seventeenth century, and set out his egalitarian vision of how things should be there in his book “New Atlantis”.  The historian William Hepworth Dixon (1821-1879) considered Bacon one of the Founding Fathers  of the United States.   Thomas Jefferson    (1743-1826), one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, and the third President of the United States, went as far as to describe Bacon as one of “the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception”.  Incidentally, both Francis and his father Nicholas Bacon, as sometime Lords Keeper of the Great Seal, once lived in York House, not far from  Whitehall.   Francis  also once  lived in Canonbury House in Islington.

IMG_20151110_112212 - Copy

In the eighteenth century, Peyton Randolph (1723-1775) received his legal training in Middle Temple, before going  on to become the first President of the Continental Congress in 1774.  The so-called “Penman of the Revolution” John Dickinson (1732-1808) also received his legal training in Middle Temple, before going on to help draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Articles of Confederation in 1781 (he was also very possibly the person who coined the famous phrase “no taxation without representation”).  A further five Middle Templars signed the Declaration of Independence: Thomas Heyward Jr.; Thomas Lynch Jr.; Thomas McKean; Arthur Middleton; and Edward Rutledge (*).  And John Rutledge (1739-1800) received his legal training in Middle Temple, too, before going on to chair the committee that drafted  the Constitution in 1787.  Seven Middle Templars signed the Constitution: John Blair; the aforementioned John Dickinson;  Charles Jared Ingersoll; William Livingstone; Charles Cotesworth Pinckney; Charles Pinckney; and John Rutledge himself.

The Inns of Court are visited on various of our walks, including the “Legal London” and “Rebellious London” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

(*) An Inner Templar also signed the document: William Paca.

Jack Cade’s rebellion (1450)

Jack Cade's rebellion.JPG

On this day in 1450 Jack Cade, alias Mortimer,  and thousands of armed supporters entered London “to punish evil ministers and procure a redress of grievances”.  Cade went on to strike  the “London Stone” on Cannon Street  with his sword, and declare himself “Lord of this City” (*); and in this capacity to oversee the show-trial at the Guildhall and subsequent execution on Cheapside of the corrupt Lord High Treasurer, James Fiennes, Baron of Saye and Sele, and his son-in-law William Crowmer.    Unfortunately for Cade, in succeeding days he lost what support he had for his cause among the citizens of London, as his followers descended into drunken  rioting and looting in the City.  Eventually, on July 8th, the citizens drove him and his followers from the City, after a pitched battle on London Bridge, during which scores of combatants were killed (**).

The “London Stone” is  visited on our “Tower to Temple” standard walk, and on our “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights” and “Rebellious London” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

(*) An act  immortalised thus by Shakespeare in “Henry VI Part II”, Act IV, Scene VI:

“Now is Mortimer Lord of this City.  And here, sitting upon London-stone, I charge and command that, of the city’s cost, the pissing-conduit run nothing but claret wine this first year of our reign.  And now, henceforward, it shall be treason for any that calls me other than Lord Mortimer”.

(**) Cade was later captured and executed in Sussex,  whereupon  his   body was brought to London and beheaded and quartered in the King’s Bench Prison in Southwark, and his head was put upon a pike on London Bridge.

Use of a chemical weapon  in Medieval London (1460)

During “The Wars of the Roses”, between 1455-85, London was an important centre of political machination, and the Tower, the scene of a series of chilling politically motivated murders, in forgotten dreadful cubicles behind great locked doors (see also February 18th posting).

There was also some actual action in the City (see also May 14th posting); and indeed there were pitched battles on its outskirts, at St Alban’s in 1455 and 1461, and  at Barnet in 1471 (see also April 14th posting).

Wildfire being let loose from a flame-thrower

On this day in 1460, a Yorkist army arrived at the gates of London, and was admitted by Aldermen sympathetic to their cause.  At this, the Lancastrian garrison in the Tower, under Thomas, the Seventh Baron Scales, indiscriminately opened fire on the City in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to prevent its  occupation, using both  conventional and  chemical weapons from the Royal Armoury, causing both combatant and civilian  casualties,  and occasioning extreme public outrage, ultimately resulting in Scales’s  summary execution (*).  The chemical weapon, let loose from a  primitive and unreliable flame-thrower, was  “Greek fire” or “wildfire”, which may be  thought of as a form of napalm, that stuck and set fire to  everything – and everyone –  it came into contact with, and flared  up even more fiercely if water was cast onto it (*).

The Tower of London  is visited, although not entered, on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and on our “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights”, “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights” and “Rebellious London”  themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

(*) As a contemporary chronicler put it: “They that were within the Tower cast wildfire into the City, and shot in small guns, and burned and hurt men and women and children in the streets”.