A Brief History of Old Men (and Women) Part One: Steel Bonnets on Grey Pates

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If you will forgive the vagueness of this anecdote, there were two women on television, one a BBC presenter, the other a historian who should have known better (it may have been Bettany Hughes, who I rather like, so my apologies if I calumnise her). They are discussing a third woman, a historical figure of 35.

“Of course, at 35 she would have been virtually an old woman”, says the presenter.

To the historian’s credit, she pauses considering a proper answer before, bound by TV convention, agrees.

Then there was Melvyn Bragg, who although not a professional academic is also in the ranks of those who “should know better”. In his (otherwise rather good) “In Our Time” on Caxton and the Printing Press Bragg expresses surprise that Caxton, began his printing career at 40 “which was about the life expectancy of the time”.

William Caxton at bbout 50 - and not dead

William Caxton at about 50 – and not dead

As you may have read in my last article, age is a bit of a sensitive subject at the moment, but this popular misconception of age in the past is a bugbear of mine. Part of the reason, I think, is that most abused of statistics, life expectancy at birth.   It is a gross over simplification, but put brutally, in a period of high infant mortality, for every infant death, someone has to survive into old age to maintain even a moderate mean. I’ve been repeatedly struck when reading about medieval and Early modern topics that interest me how frequently elderly people were not only surviving, but playing very active roles and in lieu of a systematic study of mortality rates, I’d like to share some examples.

My first two spring from my fascination with the Scottish borders. Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Surrey (as he was at the time of his finest hour) was a remarkable in serving four English monarchs, Edward IV, Richard III and the two Tudor Henrys. He was born in 1443 and was a soldier from his youth, badly wounded at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, knighted in 1478 and fought for Richard III at Bosworth in 1485. After this he was disenfranchised and imprisoned in the Tower, before  talking his way back into Henry VII’s favour.

Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, Praying before Flodden

Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, An old man looking Medieval

By 1513 he was a 70 year old man, and Earl Marshall of England to Henry VIII. Henry took the flower of English chivalry to invade France, leaving Howard in England as Lieutenant General in the North. James IV Scotland, unwisely, decided to honour the “auld alliance” with France and invaded England in support of his ally. Howard gathered what had to be considered a “B-Team” of England’s military might. All the heavy cavalry was campaigning with Henry in France and Howard raised a force of billmen and longbowmen along with some of the light cavalry the border were famed for and a few pieces of artillery and marched his force against a force of Scots which far outnumbered them.

Although this is not the place to dissect the resulting Battle of Flodden, famously Howard maneuvered his force behind the strong Scots defensive position and destroyed the Scottish army in a viscious hand to hand fight, killing James himself and much of the Scottish nobility of military age.

This was probably the last major battle on English soil where gunpowder, at least in hand-held guns, did not play a significant role. It is not clear whether the aging Surrey would have actually struck any blows, but some accounts say that James’ desperate final attack cut to within “spear’s length” of Howard. After some weeks of the discomfort of campaigning, he put on his armour took part in a forced march and a fierce fight. Remarkable for a man of his age.

He was not done, either. In 1517 (now styled Duke of Norfolk) he went on to lead a troop of cavalry to help put down the Evil May Day Riot in London . He was active politically until his 80th year and finally died in 1523 at 81.

Another man who made his name fighting Scots in the Borders through a long life was Sir John Forster. He was Warden of the Middle March through much of the second half of the Sixteenth Century, near the end of the period of the border reivers.

He almost exemplified the border conflict. He fought in the two biggest post-Flodden border battles of Solway Moss and Pinkie Clough and served in various minor commands before his 35 years as Warden. During this time few were more courageous and active in enforcing border law, but also he was corrupt, vicious and dishonest. Application of arbitrary justice was part of life in the borders, even part of his job as Warden, but there are tales of his not only quasi-judicially murdering the innocent  but also of his leniency with the guilty amongst the Scottish Reivers when it suited his personal needs. He was present, and maybe partly responsible for at least two outbreaks of violence at the nominally sacrosanct Days of Truce where cross border conflicts were meant to be resolved. He helped put down two rebellions by advocates of Mary Queen of Scots. He lived well into old age and only yielded the Wardenship unwillingly when this finally made him susceptible to “imbicillity and weakness”. Even then, living in retirement at Bamburgh in 1597 thirty Scots crossed the border, broke into Bamburgh Castle and tried to murder him.

The problem is, how old was he? Forster was one of the inspirations for this article  after reading about him in George MacDonald Fraser’s “The Steel Bonnets“. Fraser pronounces with complete confidence that he was born in 1501 and, neatly encapsulating the Sixteenth Century, died in 1602. This made him over a hundred at his death, 94 when he was stripped of the Middle March Wardenship for the final time and 96 at the time of the assassination attempt. This age is not unprecedented, but quite exceptional. Unfortunately, as I started reading around a little before writing this piece, some conflicting birth dates appear. Some writers also mention  Fraser’s 1601-02, but several others say 1620. This would still have him living to past 80, serving actively as Warden into his late 70s and thirty Scots thinking his life was worth shortening at about 77. These comparatively youthful ages would, in themselves, earn a place here and do not in any way detract from my point, however I will have to beg your indulgence in not pronouncing one way or the other until I have had time to do some more rigorous research.

The lives of these two men overlapped, indeed if Fraser is correct it is not impossible that the old Howard knew the young Forster. Their lives spanned an astonishing period of English History. Howard was born with Henry VI on the throne and the Hundred Years War about to reach its dénouement; Forster died just before James Stuart came down from Scotland to take the English crown.

They show that men living tough, active, violent lives in the late Middle Ages and Early modern period could and did, (albeit rarely) live long and serve well into old age. Although Howard and Forster are exceptional, finding examples of fighting men in middle age is far easier, indeed in both England and Scotland military age had long been established at 16-60.

In part two I’ll introduce a few more example from home and abroad and talk more about the reality of age and mortality for our pre-industrial forebears.

Five Calf Skin Volumes, A Lion Passant Guardant and a Splendid Wife

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I really am blessed with a very fine wife. This St. Georges Day was my 40th Birthday and, I’ll be honest about it, I was rather grumpy about the milestone, and my 5.50 a.m. alarm to wake me for my day job didn’t do much to improve my mood. Then Lisa hauled onto the bed a medium sized, but rather heavy tissue paper wrapped parcel. I had a good idea what is was. Those few of you who are devotees of The Wolfe will know that I am working through Thomas Babbington Macaulay’s History of England From The Accession of James II via LibriVox’ recordings on my drives to and from work. These have been an absolute joy and after a couple of months or so, the eponymous James has just fled the country, England is wringing its hands over constitutional niceties and Macaulay’s darling William of Orange is being  appropriately scrupulous. I’d mentioned that I’d like a nice set of the books and made some half hearted searches on Abebooks.

5 Volumes of Calf clad Whiggism

V Volumes of Calf Clad Whiggism

Surely enough beneath the paper was a superb complete matching five volume set of Macaulay and a far finer one than I would have bought for myself. It is nearly immaculate in full calf with gold embossing and that wonderful smell of old book. It is not quite a first edition but would appear to date from the early 1860s, probably bought as a set after the posthumous publication of the fifth volume. It is a lovely thing and my mood lifted immeasurably.

There was more, however. Each volume has a rather interesting book plate, showing a coat of arms and the name “W.H. Thompson”. A quick google by Lisa yielded Professor William Hepworth Thompson, Regius Professor of Greek from 1853 and Master of Trinity College Cambridge from 1866 as a possible candidate.

Further investigation yielded that the arms of the Regius professor of Greek are:

Per chevron argent and sable, in chief the two Greek letters Alpha and Omega of the second, and in base a cicado [grasshopper] of the first, on a chief gules a lion passant guardant Or, charged on the side with the letter G sable. The crest has an owl.

This isn’t quite what is on the crest of the book plate, but the lion, Alpha-Omega and grasshopper occupy the first and third quarters, so the association is clear.

Thompson's Heraldic Book Plate

Thompson’s Heraldic Book Plate

Heraldry is not really my forte and I’d be happy of any correction from anyone who knows better but I assume that Thompson would have been granted arms when he took his professorship and he combined the symbols of his post with the portcullis and ragulée (ragged) branch in the second and forth quarters which had some personal significance.

 W.H. Thompson -"He had a remarkable dignity of appearance, grave in his expression and his bearing"

W.H. Thompson -“He had a remarkable dignity of appearance, grave in his expression and his bearing”

I think we can be pretty sure then, that my Macaulay came from this Thompson’s personal library. It is always a pleasure to have provenance for an antique and I’m especially pleased that my Macaulay must have sat on the shelves owned by such a prominent academic as Thompson. He and Macaulay were contemporaries, although in rather difference spheres, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they may have met. Thompson was instrumental in the removal of “tests” from Oxford and Cambridge which prevented Catholics, non-Conformists and non-Christians from taking Fellowships. The tensions caused by test acts were were a common theme of Macaulay’s History and I’d like to imagine that in some small way, Thompson’s reading of the books which would be my birthday present a century and a half later helped form his thoughts on religious tolerance which prompted this good work.

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As and aside, I’d like to mention that Barrie Kaye of KBooks Ltd. was very helpful and generous with his time as well as being quite charming to Lisa whilst supplying the books.

Arbella Stuart- Cross Dressing, Armed Pursuits and a Pitiful Demise

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Phineas Pett’s autobiography has produced a number of interesting tangents. This passage, from 1610 particularly intrigued:

The 4th of June, being Tuesday, being prepared to have gone to London the next day, about mid- night one of the King’s messengers was sent down to me from the Lord Treasurer to man the light horseman with 20 musketeers and to run out as low as the Nore head to search all ships, barks, and other vessels, for the Lady Arabella that had then made a scape and was bound over for France ; which service I performed accordingly, and searched Queenborough, and all other vessels I could meet withal, and then went over to Leigh in Essex and searched the town ; and when we could hear no news of her went to Gravesend, and thence took post horse to Greenwich, where his Majesty then lay, and delivered the account of my journey to the Lord Treasurer by his Majesty’s command ; and so was dismissed, and went that night to Ratcliff, where I lay at Captain King’s

What had occurred to pull our respectable shipwright out of his bed to lead to party of armed men to search the Kentish coast and shipping? The story is actually one which has all the hallmarks of a rather overblown romantic fiction, with cross dressing, escapes from the Tower, forbidden love and tragic death, only redeemed because it happened to be true and one, to my embarrassment, which I had not come across before.

“Lady Arabella” was Arbella Stuart, granddaughter to both Bess of Hardwick and Margeret Lennox, Niece of Mary Queen of Scots, thus descended from Henry VIII’s sister. As it became clear that Queen Elizabeth, last surviving of her father’s brood would die childless, England had to look back a generation for the succession which yielded both Arbella and James Stuart of Scotland.

Arbella Stuart at 13- Portrait in Hardwick Hall

Arbella at 13

It is arguable whether Arbella really had any chance of taking the throne if James survived Elizabeth, but she was certainly the next strongest claimant and Elizabeth used the threat of her inheriting to keep James honest and used the prize of marrying her pedigree as a bargaining piece in her diplomacy.

Although Arbella spent some time at court, she spent most of her childhood and young womanhood under the strict controlling care of her formidable Grandmother, Bess at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.

With Elizabeth close to death, Arbella made an extraordinary move, seemingly entirely of her own volition, and tried to arrange a marriage, without the Queen’s consent to Edward Seymour, one of the leading nobles in England and with an outside claim to the throne himself. Her plot was discovered and she found herself in considerable royal disgrace, at least until Elizabeth’s demise.

Even before this incident she felt that she was a virtual prisoner at Hardwick which was proved to be so when, after the Seymour debacle, she tried to leave, with an elaborate escape planned with a group of gallants, only to be stopped at the gate of the hall.

James, once securely on the English throne was somewhat kinder to her and she seemingly repaid him with loyalty, rejecting the “Main Plot” to kill James and put her on the throne.

Hardwick New Hall. A gilded, or rather glazed, cage

Hardwick New Hall. A gilded, or rather glazed, cage

Then in 1610 in another misguided act of impressive boldness she married, in secret, Edward Seymour’s younger brother William, a man twelve years younger than the now 35-year-old Arbella. It is unclear if this was a true love match, but even if Arbella herself had given up any pretensions to the throne, any offspring would be potential claimants should circumstances change. This marriage was illegal without the King’s permission and both were arrested, he imprisoned in the Tower and Arbella, after a while held in London, was due to be sent north to imprisonment in the care of the Bishop of Durham.

In a quite impressive feat, they both managed to engineer simultaneous escapes. He escaped from the Tower, seemingly disguised as his barber, whilst she gave her female attendant the slip at Barnet after feigning illness on the way north and (according to Sir John More):

 disguising her selfe by drawing a pair of great French-fashioned Hose over her Petticotes, putting on a Man’s doublet, a man-lyke Perruque with long Locks over her Hair, a blacke Hat, black Cloake, russet Bootes with red Tops, and a Rapier by her Syde

[As an aside I couldn’t resist chuckling at biographer Sarah Gristwood’s whimsical comment of her “feeling for the first time the stiff, unaccustomed padding of fabric between her thighs” at her first experience of trousers]

She rode to the Thames and after delaying (fatally as it turned out) waiting for  William who had missed their rendez vous was rowed out to sea by some  watermen (who promptly doubled their fee during the short trip). Avoiding the attentions of our Phineas Pett and others she boarded a pre-arranged French barque under a Captain Corvé and, delaying again for William, set sail for France. The delays however had been crucial and with English shipping alerted for the fugitive, the Pinnace “Adventure” caught up to Corvé’s ship, fired “Thirteen Shots Straight into the vessel” (More again) which promptly struck their colours and Arbella and her party were captured.

She was imprisoned in the Tower where, after a few vain attempts to escape, she died, miserable and dispirited in 1615.

William Seymour on the other hand, having successfully escaped to Ostend, was virtually forgotten about by the government, being no threat after the capture of Arbella. The degree of forgiveness often shown in the Seventeenth Century, (as well as its equally frequent absence) often astonishes me and William was back soon after Arbella’s death, an MP by 1620 and was a prominent Royalist during the Civil Wars and survived to see his loyalty pay off in the restoration.

It is a remarkable story and one I’ve only sketched here in the barest detail but one I’m surprised isn’t better known, although I realise I may be projecting my ignorance on the wider public. With the romance and adventure of the tale I would have thought that she would have been the darling of the the more romantic historical authors, whereas I believe only Doris Leslie in the 40’s has made her into such a heroine and I know of no stage or screen adaptation of her life. Even at Harwick Hall where she spent much of her life, although not ignored, she is painted as an incidental figure, a sidebar to Bess of Hardwick.

Perhaps the reason for her relative obscurity now is that her significance during her lifetime was always what she could possibly be, not who she actually was or what she did. She was never expected to take the throne. Her position as a rival claimant was vital, but entirely passive. Her existence and lineage put her in the position of rival (or, perhaps more properly, alternative) heir to the throne but nothing she could do make this work to her advantage. In fact it was in almost everyone’s interest, certainly of the two monarchs that she did absolutely nothing. She was dangled, on occasion, as a potential bride to both domestic and foreign suitors, and as James’ daughter, Elizabeth showed a generation later, this could lead to an influential and significant existence in a foreign court, but even this was denied to her. Her name was worth using at bait, but for her to marry and possibly bear children was not a risk worth taking.

The tragedy of her existence (and it seems to have been a life with very few moments of happiness) was, to me, that she understood all this. She was an educated and fairly intelligent (if deeply unwise) woman. She understood that whilst her existence and ancestry was useful, her person was a an inconvenience. She fought against this her whole life. The proposed and actual marriages to the Seymours, the dramatic attempted flights were, more than simple escapes from the gilded cage she found herself in but, far more attempt to forge an existence for herself beyond her pedigree, a plea for the world to recognise her. That maybe makes it all the crueller how largely forgotten she is. She does at times come across as a hard woman to like, and her judgement was disastrously poor but I can’t help feeling great pity for her.

Aural History Part I- Sharing a car with Macaulay, Bragg and Beard.

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Due to changing jobs a few months ago, my rail commute into London with its opportunity to read and write-up my thoughts has been replaced by a drive down to obscure parts of Surrey, rather  to the detriment of this blog. However this does give me a couple of hours per day with no demands on my time from family or employers in which to get some intellectual stimulus and the historical podcast has been an epiphany to me. I thought I’d share my thoughts on some of these podcasts and casters over an article or two.

The podcast is a loose term- and one I use more loosely than most- as any piece of recorded speech downloaded from the internet. As we will see this embraces a broad church of recordings.

On of the most common sources is radio programmes repackaged  as podcasts. These, of course, benefit from far better production values than a chap with a mic in his office. Whilst this also means that there has to be a big enough audience for the subject  to be commissioned, which rules out the most obscure and recherché we are very lucky in having Radio 4 with its public service brief delivers some superb stuff.

Bragg's "In Our Time"

Bragg’s “In Our Time”

My favourite, and the backbone of my listening has been In Our Time. This has been running for donkey’s years and the entire archive is available on podcast. In these, unedited 45 minute programmes, Melvyn Bragg hosts three, often quite prominent, academics to discuss a given topic in science, philosophy, history or literature. Bragg, informed by notes from this guests, (and frequently his own prejudices) guides and referees the discussion. Now whether you enjoy these or not depends a lot on how you feel about Bragg- and a lot of people I know take strong exception to him. I think he does a rather good job of courting or suppressing disagreement as required, moving the academics on from dwelling on their hobby-horse topics and keeping the show within its time limits. Un-scripted (or, at best loosely scripted) as they are they vary in quality somewhat, some really come off and others are less successful but few fall really flat. They are nicely weighted to please the completely layman whilst still having something for the informed amateur but the beauty of them is their variety. How else could you , in one week listen to expert views on The Norman Yoke, The Peterloo Massacre, the Boxer Rebellion, Octavia Hill, The Volga Vikings, Caxton, The Borgias, the Condordat of Wormes and the Seige of Munster?

 Although I have no pretence at all of being a classicist, I will admit to being a devotee of Mary Beard and her short contributions to another Radio 4 Production, A Point of View are worth a listen. There is a lot to admire about her. Her conscious defiance of the convention that TV historians should either be distinguished middle-aged men or pretty young women is perhaps slightly dated, but her determination to be herself is refreshing. Her TV delivery seems lighthearted and almost naive with her smirking references to willies and coitus. Although her undyed hair and eccentric dress may be very much her own she does sometimes make an affectation of not being affected . However I enjoy the personal nature of her histories and there is always a hard intelligent core to all she does. Her recent series on Rome had some real nuggets of social commentary without being heavy handed. Despite her mildness and clear compassion he has, of course also sparked a couple of significant controversies. After September 11th her soundbite about America “having it coming” was, if not exactly out of context, certainly more palatable when framed as part of her more nuanced argument. She recently raised ire again by questioning the veracity of locals complaints about the effect of immigration on rural Lincolnshire. I happen to think that she may not have been entirely right here and that she might have allowed her instinctive liberalism to dismiss a genuine issue. However her exposition of the malice and misogyny on twitter and forums which were a  consequence of her comments further demonstrated to me her integrity and steel. Her contributions to Point of View on such subjects as the modern age and beauty, death in Pompeii, the age of consent, poverty and academia are studied, engaging and poignant and exemplifies how valuable a historical perspective from a first class on modern social issues can be.

Lord Macaulay Whig and Scholar

Lord Macaulay Whig and Scholar

Another revelation, and one which has been an absolute joy, was the discovery that the whole of Macaulay’s History of England from the Accession of James II is available on podcast. This is not the place to dissect the merits of Macaulay, so I will try to limit my enthusiasm and only do so briefly. We are taught that we ought to rather dismiss Macaulay as his Victorian Whig perspective of the perfection of the English constitution and the perhaps slightly unfair perception that he believed that this was determined by fate due to some inherrent virtue of the English and Anglicanism are considered oversimplified, wrong and, worse quaint. This is maybe true, but to discount him like this is to do him- and yourself- a great disservice as it is wonderful stuff. He writes beautifully, with a verve, authority and even tenderness which few modern writers can match. If the thread of his narrative doesn’t stand up to modern scholarship (or indeed near contemporary Marx was not a fan to say the least) it betrays his bias not his lack of insight or analysis which is thought provoking even now.

The online recordings are by LibriVox, an organisation of volunteers which makes public domain reading of out of copyright books and it is credit to them to have taken on the huge 5 volume history. It also gives the recording a rather different character to a professional recording would. Instead of the middle aged,male received pronunciation you would expect, segments are read by a variety of the volunteers from around the world. I actually rather like it, although some of the American renderings of some English place names was a bit off (Charles lost at Nas-er-by we are told), and hearing the Sun King referred to as “Lewis” grated a bit, only one reader with a heavy Indian accent actually made understanding difficult. I’m getting through about a chapter per week or so the whole work will be a project of several months, but what a pleasure it is. I particularly enjoy the reading of Chip from Tampa and the anonymous Yorkshireman who do much or the early reading but the change of voices from around the English speaking world and of both sexes is perhaps no bad think for such a long piece.

LibriVox has an extensive catalogue of fiction and non-fiction, including G.K. Chesterton’s (considerably briefer)  History of England, and they are working on David Hume’s (almost equally long) opus – which I may even contribute to. It is a brilliant completely free resource which I’m nor sure many people realise is there.

I’ll write a couple more of these in the near future, hopefully interspersed with some actual posts on history. I hope you’ll reign me in if you find I am regressing into Whiggishness due to saturation in Macaulay.

 

Richard III: Twisted Spines and Gilded Lillies

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The reaction to the discovery of Richard III’s remains has been quite remarkable, with everyone with the remotest interest in history, and quite a few with none, having their say. It would be remiss of me to miss out.

My wife Lisa will attest that I am a little prone to spluttering rants at the television. Politics, history programmes and the tendency for television news to treat us like imbeciles being my most common topics. The documentary on Channel 4 had me regularly in full splutter.

The frustration was that the story of the discovery and forensic investigation into Richard’s remains was so superb. Had it been presented in the traditional format by middle-aged, whiskered man in a polyester sweater in a nasal drone,let alone with the aplomb which modern history programmes are often produced, it wouldn’t matter. The narrative of the investigation was good enough to stand on its own. But, instead, it was presented by a floppy haired comedy actor as a human interest story about Phillipa Langley of the Richard III Society (“The Ricardians”) and her personal journey through the investigation.

The Ricardians are an odd bunch. They are dedicated to research into Richard III, but with the avowed agenda to “make the case for ‘Good King Richard‘” and “reclaiming the reputation” of the King. They claim that balance needs to be restored as his reputation was tarnished by the Tudors, and this reputation popularised by Shakespeare. Now there may be some truth in this, but forming a hypothesis and searching for historical evidence to support it risks producing some very poor history. Perhaps we are all guilty of it to a lesser or greater degree, but to embrace it as a core value seems misguided.  If your investigations prove that Richard was a new Charlemagne or that did in fact kill the princes in the towers, whilst torturing puppies with the other hand, so be it.

Ricardians Coat of Arms- "Loyalty"

Ricardians Coat of Arms- “Loyalty”

The Ricardians have been perhaps considered as mildly eccentric and at the fringes of respectable history in the past, and it is easy to dismiss them. But, and this is a very large “but”, on this occasion they got something very right. For all the cleverness shown by the University of Leicester and others in the excavation and research into the skeleton, the Ricardians’ research determined the probable location of the burial and their fundraising financed the initial excavation. The archaeologists were quite happy to have a dig financed and the chance to excavate a lost friary, but they didn’t expect to find anything. Easy to dismiss they might be, but without the Ricardians, the discovery wouldn’t have happened.

So when the curve-spined skeleton is discovered,  the camera focuses on Langley’s face and we are voyeurs to her conflicted emotions- the deformed skeleton conforms to one of the historical accounts of Richard, that he was crook-backed, but it is one of the beliefs of the Ricardians that this was retrospective propaganda. She is torn as this discovery both holds great promise that this skeleton is in fact Richard, whilst destroying a Ricardian article of faith. We are  forced to watch each tic in close up. We hear the arguments over whether Richard’s standard should be draped over his remains as they are removed from the site, and are treated to the rather pathetic spectacle of the flag being draped over a cardboard box as it is loaded into a rather full Renault van. We hear of her nausea and we see her tears, we see her stare mystically into the distance as she relates that the box was found under space “R” of the social services carpark and maybe saddest of all, we hear her exclaim in a hushed voice when the reproduction head is revealed to her “that is not the face of a tyrant”. It was rather grotesque.

My criticism isn’t really aimed at Langley here. Her reactions were entirely natural considering the personal investment she had in the project. The producers however have done both the viewers and her a disservice. It is rather insulting that they assumed that we couldn’t digest and hour and a half of archaeology without this cheap voyeurism but I think they were slightly disdainful of Langley and despite the Ricardians indispensable contribution to the discovery of Richard, she will be seen as rather silly and emotional.

Which is all such a shame, as there was so much good stuff in there. The excavation, post mortem, medical analysis, carbon dating building up a picture of the life and death of the man , and piecing them together with historical sources was splendid and all that was needed. The “reveal” of the DNA test comparison with the Plantaganet joiner had drama aplenty without lingering facial close ups. Despite my annoyance, it was one of the most interesting pieces of historical TV I’ve seen in a long time. I do wonder if someone could take the footage, re-edit it and give a thoughtful grown up commentary (perhaps John Snow or Andrew Sachs might be persuaded) and release it to critical acclaim

Of course in many ways, the discovery has told us very little about the important events of Richard’s reign (as Paul Lay puts it typically well).  The details of his death, post mortem arse-stabbing and burial are fascinating, but it sheds no light on whether he was guilty of all he is accused of, whether he was a good king or bad. That the spinal deformation wasn’t a later fabrication doesn’t necessarily suggest one way or the other whether the other stories were calumnies or not. The discovery might have gained some cache for the Ricardians amongst the general public, but this has probably been squandered. An interesting debate about medieval history, Tudor propaganda and Shakespeare’s influence on our perceptions of history has been opened and despite the implications of the documentary, much of the public is intelligent and engaged enough to have it

Harwick Old Hall- Prophetic Servants in the Ruins

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Inspired by my new found interest in obscure Stuarts (more of which one day) we visited Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire this Summer. Although overshadowed by the more spectacular nearby Chatsworth, it is well worth a visit. There are actually two halls. The “New” hall, completed about 1697 is intact and gorgeous (“more window than wall” according to a contemporary) but in a testament to the magnificent extravagance of Bess of Hardwick it was begun before the “Old” Hall was complete. The Old Hall is now a ruin, although a lovely one with some of the rather grand plasterwork still intact.

The New Hall is National Trust but the Old Hall is run by English Heritage. With the iPad not having any signal and not wanting to add any more guide books to the groaning shelves at home I picked up one of the free audio guides. The tour is given by Bess’s steward, a gruff well to do accent, somewhere between General Melchett and Rumpole of the Bailey. It was actually rather informative, but I was very entertained when he announced that he and his fellow servants were amazed when they first moved into the hall, with its cross-wise main hall “as they had always lived in Medieval Halls”. How many of us can claim to know our place in history so well?

Stalinism and White Lace- 55 Days at The Hampstead Theatre

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A couple of weeks back we went to 55 Days, at the Hampstead Theatre. It is a play on the trial and execution of Charles beginning with Iretons’ army marching on London just before Pride’s Purge and ending with the fall of the axe on Charles Stuart’s neck.

It is a brave choice for a play. The personalities and issues are complex and the it has to be pitched nicely at the assumed erudition of the audience. Assume too much knowledge and they will be lost, but the playwright takes too many liberties with the better informed at his peril.

The costume design is the most obvious statement of the play’s personality. Charles is resplendent in black velvet, lace, cavalier hair and pointed beard, straight from van Dyck. Everyone else is in early 20th Century drab. Had it not come off it would be easy to dismiss as an crass gimmick, but I rather liked it. It emphasised the apartness of Charles from all around him, friends as well as enemies. Charles was gorgeous and romantic but anachronistic amongst the bland modernity around him. There is also some nuance in the modern costume designs. The English soldiers uniforms are nothing like that of the wartime Tommy, rather great coats and berets which echo, if avoiding mimicking, Russian troops. Freeborn John Lilburne, with his round glasses, cap and coat is an unmistakable Trotsky and the suits, as attire becomes progressively more civilian are, except for Fairfax’s, dour and badly cut. The dialogue never departs for the Seventeenth Century English plot, but the visual cues are Revolutionary Russian.

Inevitably, the nucleus of the play is the character of the two principal men- Charles Stuart and Oliver Cromwell.

Mark Gatiss portrayal of Charles superficially is set apart by a couple of things. Firstly his incongruous costume and secondly his soft, refined but unmistakably Scottish accent. Like most of us, I’d assumed that Charles spoke like Alec Guinness. I’m not sure about the veracity of this burr, his father James’ Scottish accent was disparagingly commented on, but I’ve not read the same of Fife-born Charles, but it’s a reminder of his Stuart heritage and further sets him apart even from his English allies. His notorious stammer is sparingly used, almost exclusively on the plosive of Parliament. Gatiss is also a tall man, imposing despite his slight build , particularly alongside the diminutively cast gaoler, the Duke of Richmond. I do wonder how differently his aloofness have played from the shorter stature ascribed to Charles, staring up, not down on those around him.

Apart from this, however, although superbly played by Gatiss, the Charles of 55 Days is entirely conventional. He is devious, but inept. Tactically clever but strategically inflexible. He is waspish, theatrical and aloof, genuinely convinced of his divinely ordained kingship. He is charming, but his repeated duplicity, which he justifies by his holy kingship makes him untrustworthy and untrustable and frustrates and eventually drives away sympathisers and moderates. He is misunderstood, but explaining himself to win over those willing to be won is below his dignity. This is the Charles we know. Beautifully acted and painted but unsurprising.

Oliver Cromwell is always going to be the more challenging character. 350 years after his death, the English still don’t know what to make of him. Our national memory has its greats divided into its heros and villains. Churchill, Wellington, Henry V, Richard the Lionheart, Marlborough are the good guys. We accept the revisionist histories which say they were flawed, but they keep their place on the pedestal. Rarely (the likes of Clive and other colonial adventurers are amongst the few which occur) do our historical heros become otherwise. Equally those which we have labelled as villains, Bad King John, Richard III, Oswald Moseley, perhaps James II are irredeemable (often , granted, this is Shakespeare’s fault).

But Cromwell, despite being arguable the pivotal character of Early Modern England, fits comfortably in neither camp. Whilst the Irish and Scots are quite sure that Cromwell is one of the principal evils in their pantheon, Cromwell has had roads, schools and even tanks named after him and, most tellingly a fine statue outside of Parliament. He is both the poster boy of parliament’s rights (despite dissolving it), reformer of the hopeless English state but destroyer of joy and beauty. The restoration was a cause of relief throughout the nation. The man celebrated with sword and bible in Thornycroft’s bronze is also the man who (allegedly) banned Christmas and set loose the Major Generals.

Douglas Henschall isn’t the physical Cromwell we are used to. He is fair haired, mobile and energetic. There is a hint of flamboyance in his dress contrasting the uber-austere Cromwell of popular perception. At the start of the play he is nominally subservient to Fairfax, and a peer of Ireton but accepted by all as the real leader of the Parliamentarian cause. He is charismatic and as well as being universally admired is, more surprisingly, liked- a good companion as well as an inspiration.

The play charts his path from opponent of the trial of Charles to its architect and guarantor of its verdict and sentence. With each incremental step, his acceptance of the purge, agreement to the trial, betrayal of Freeborn John and rigging of the verdict is seen by Cromwell as necessitated, not by the neutral predetermination of fate, but of divine providence and, in the absence of anyone else with the strength, will and competence he, must be the instrument of God’s will. He moves progressively from a seemingly reluctant tool of this divine ordination to an increasingly enthusiastic one. Only as we near the denouement are we allowed a shadow of doubt as to whether his motives were more Machiavellian.

Henschall’s main mark on the part is the extraordinary meter of his delivery. His tortured pauses in his words, before his line, mid-sentence, or mid phrase at times left me expecting an intervention from the prompter. It was unsettling, but ultimately effective. His laughter, which infects his colleagues, as he signs the death warrant, was unsettling and one of the moments of the play.

In a set piece, near the end of the play, Cromwell visits Charles in prison,offering him a final chance to compromise, and promising that he and he alone could and would save him. Charles rejects him. No such meeting ever occurred. I have no problem with this device in itself- this is drama, not documentary, but I have always felt that the fact the two men did not meet has a poignancy in itself and I slightly regretted its loss.

There are a plethora of other characters perhaps too many to give them justice. The stately Fairfax, nominal commander in chief but with increasingly little stomach for the fight plays and Ireton, Cromwell’s peer play their role, but aren’t fleshed out. Freeborn John Lilburne, the leveller firebrand is a bit of a disappointing caricature; Richmond, Charles’ morally torn gaoler stands for all those the King betrayed and disappointed.

In a strange change in pace near the end of the play we are introduced to John Cooke, the solicitor general who led the prosecution, and was later executed as a regicide. The battle to make the trial legal was actually one of the most satisfying parts of the play and perhaps Cooke might have made an interesting third member of a triumvirate of leading men with the King and Cromwell, but we were left with a tantalising but unfulfilled sub plot and a rather confused portrayal of his devoted wife. In fact the female characters were rather badly served in the play. Lady Fairfax who famously heckled the court during Charles trial and was threatened with loaded muskets is one of the more interesting individuals of tale of the trial and probably worthy of a play of her own, but also felt rather bolted on to 55 Days.

I perhaps criticise too much, though. It was a cleverly staged, elegantly acted and thoroughly enjoyable night at the theatre and a thoughtful take one of the most gripping but elusive episodes in English history. That it watched Cromwell with a puzzled frown rather than truly explaining him is both forgivable and entirely proper. 350 years of historians have not, so why should two and half hours of drama?

Carlisle Castle- Border Reivers and Awkward Questions

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Two or three years ago, I visited Carlisle Castle the squat and brutally functional stone fortress, near to the Western end of Hadrian’s Wall and just back from the modern Scottish Border.

My half-Scottish soon-to-be wife, Lisa and I joined one of the free guided tours. Amongst our fellow visitors were a family with the menfolk in Rangers football tops invoking (possibly unfair) assumptions about their allegiance and from over heard conversations there was a mix of Scots and north country English in the group. Our guide was one of those fine volunteers often found at English Heritage properties, a lean, grey middle aged Cumbrian with a clear voice and a lot of knowledge of his subject. He told us of the castle’s construction, its defences, Mary Queen of Scots imprisonment and The Duke of Lancaster Regiment museum. But as we were leaving the courtyard for the keep, I was puzzled by the omissions from his talk.

“Where is the door which Kinmont Willie escaped through?”, I asked.

Kinmont Willie Armstrong was possibly the most famous of the Border Reivers. Between the late Middle Ages and James IV of Scotland taking the English throne notorious “Reiver” families from both sides of the border carried out cross-border (or sometimes domestic) raids for livestock, goods and hostages, running protection rackets and to carry on longstanding, violent feuds. With relationships between the two nations oscillating between wary fractious peace and occasional war during the period the attitude to these raids by both governments varied from tacit complicity to occasional crack down.

Kinmont Willie carried out some of the largest raids (or “Roads”) or the period, leading hundreds of horsemen across the border taking prisoners and stealing, over his career thousands of English Cattle. In 1596 he was captured, probably illegally and certainly against border custom when returning from a “Day of Truce”, and after a long chase imprisoned in Carlisle Castle.

Scott of Buccleuch, Keeper of Liddlesdale and at the time senior officer of the Scottish Crown in the West March was incensed by this and in one of the most famous incidents of border history, led a raid of 80 lancers, along with ambushes set up on his escape route, to retake Kinmont Willie. It was superbly executed and with the collusion of English allies, the Grahams (Border loyalties were complex and did not always align with nationality) entered through a postern gate wounded (perhaps killing) some sentries, and sprung Kinmont Willie, and escaped back over the Scottish border

The event was immortalised in a gloriously pro-Scottish Ballad which romanticised the raid and is the cause of much of its enduring fame.

But back to my tour guide. When I asked my question, he broke into a broad grin.

“I’m not supposed to talk about the Reivers unless someone asks for fear of offending….. ” his voice trailed of, the implication obvious “but since you have asked”

He then went on to give a brief account of Willie’s escape and English Heritage policy apparently satisfied by my enquiry, we chatted through the rest of the tour and beyond of Roads, Hot Trods and border skirmishes, both delighted to have found someone with a shared interest. Lisa smiled indulgently.

Carlisle Castle’s site is key to its purpose, in the centuries before the Union of Crowns (and occasionally since) it was a forward base for English invasions of Scotland and a bulwark against Scottish counter invasions. It was also the headquarters of the Warden of the Western Marches, the Englishman given extraordinary devolved power in administration and justice in the Western Borders. Its history is defined by warfare and Reiving between the two nations. A tour of Carlisle Castle not mentioning Anglo-Scottish tension is like a tour of Wembley Stadium (or, indeed Hampden Park) without mentioning football. It astonishes me that this seems to have been a matter of policy for English Heritage

This contrasts with the attitude across the border in Scotland. We later visited Hawick, where after the catastrophic defeat of the Scottish army at Flodden in 1513, the “callants”- the youths of the town (and most probably Reiver’s sons), fought off an English raid and captured a flag. In Hawick this event has spawned an impressive equestrian statue, a local society which commemorates the capture annually with costumed riding events, and the town is replete with references to the Callants on sign boards and in shop windows. Nobody need to ask a question in Hawick for the tale to be told.

George McDonald Fraser (creator of Flashman, peerless storyteller and Anglophile Scott whose only work of historical non-fiction “The Steel Bonnets” is an excellent history of the reivers) in his doumentary “The Debatable Lands” shows a number of Scottish Border Festivals. In Jedburgh, a tale is told Scottish triumph against the odds in the face of English betrayal. Most feature a liberal dressing of kilts, plaid and tartan, which a Scots reiver would probably never have set eyes on, let alone understood as the symbols of his nation. The narrative is certain- Scottish pluck and defiance in the face of English perfidy and aggression.

Of course, this image is at best half true. The English were indeed perfidious and aggressive and the Scots were indeed victims, but in almost exactly equal measure the reverse was true. To argue whether the Scots or English reivers were worse than the others is at best splitting hairs. This was a shockingly violent time and place and the weak on both sides of the border suffered for it.

It Scotland, the reiver years have been mythologised and politicised. The Scottish national identity draws strongly on images of strong, honourable, defiant individual victims of English bullying, which the ballads of the borders provide plenty of. Add some tartan plaid and the reiving tales (or at least half of them) serve modern Scottish cultural and political nationalism well.

My point, however, is not to criticise this slightly squint version of border history. History frequently, even inevitably, has been used to build or reinforce our perceptions of who we are. The English have, perhaps practiced this more than most in the past. It is far preferable to trying to ignore the frequently violent side of the shared, complex and fascinating Anglo-Scots history in a kind of strangely misplaced extension of post-colonial guilt. I’d rather half the story were told than we pretend that nothing happened.

I’m not one to exclaim “it’s political correctness gone mad” with Daily Mail bluster, nor am I one who claims that the English should adopt a chest-beating nationalism to bring balance to the Union. My concern is not that if border history is left to the Scots it will be rather anglophobic- it is their history to use as they will. Ignoring important bits of history with the pretty shabby (and almost certainly unjustified) excuse that it may offend bothers me far more.

The Pett Women Part 3: Persistent Plaintiffs and Some Final Thoughts

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There were few other women who appeared in the account of Phineas’ Pett’s life although one of them, yet another Elizabeth, this time the widow of his half-brother, Peter contrasts with the somewhat passive roles Phineas ascribes to the women around him by taking an aggressively active role. Phineas owed Peter £325 as a consequence of badly conceived venture in the early 1620s. Phineas had a complex personal and professional relationship with his brothers and it was not repaid during Peter’s life, but after his death in about 1631, Elizabeth, seemingly pursued by creditors herself went after Phineas with a vengeance. She had him arrested by bailiffs and despite using all his wiles, pleading his status as a King’s servant and his own alleged poverty it seems she final got her case heard at law and received payment. Getting money out of Phineas was no mean feat and Elizabeth must have been a persistent women.

So what has this brief survey of three generations of Pett women told us about the lives of Early Modern women and their families? Well, maybe nothing a student of the era didn’t know already to be honest, but although the sample is too small to be anything but anecdotal there are some interesting examples and reinforcements of what we already know.

Age at first marriage remains quite elusive for the women (or, indeed men) in question, but I’ve had a stab at estimating ages from what dates we have. In the case of Ann and Phineas’s mother, Elizabeth, they were married young enough to allow for twenty-plus years of childbearing so we can assume their late teens or early twenties. I have reckoned that the unfortunate Rachel was in her late teens when she married (and so not much older when she died). These are somewhat (although not much) younger ages than the mid-twenties which is considered the norm for Early Modern North-west Europe, perhaps due to the comparative affluence of the families involved. Pett births were usually spaced at about two years- about the norm for non-wetnursed children. Although we don’t know exact ages, the long periods between first and last recorded live births makes it clear that Early Modern women could, and did, safely give birth into their forties. This, of course, is not news and we only have to look at how late people gave up on the chances of an heir from Queens Elizabeth and (especially) Mary so see what contemporary expectations for the age at which even first pregnancies could be expected. It does, though contradict the misguided modern perception that births to women in middle life were a late 20th century phenomenon.

Remarriage, of both widows and widowers, is a recurring theme running through the three generations of Petts described here. Often this occurred very quickly after the bereavement, despite in some cases the obvious greif of the surviving spouse. Phineas himself was married and widowered three times, and at least one, probably two of his wives had married before. His father and mother both married twice and so did the wicked Reverend Nunn. These remarriages took several forms. Second wives could, like Phineas’ mother, Elizabeth, be young women embarking on their first marriage, older women past childbearing, like Susan or even still fertile younger widows like Mildred.

The tensions caused by these remarriages and the mixed families created had huge impact on the lives of Phineas and those around him- his lack of professional preferment from his elder half-brothers, the miserable existence Mary, Abigail and Elizabeth with Nunn and Abigail’s violent death and the disputes over their maintenance were all consequences of remarriages. We know that remarriages of this type were very common at the period and it is likely such tensions were equally common. Certainly the simple, nuclear family beloved of mythologists of the past is not much in evidence.

Relative ages of couple also varied. It is likely that Phineas’ first two wives were only slightly younger than him, but Mildred was far younger than Phineas, and it it likely that Phineas’ mother was much younger than his father and his sister Rachel much younger than the dissolute Rev Newman.

Of course as these women lived, they died. Some died as young children, others as young women in their prime but others (although none attained Phineas’ 77 years) lived comfortably into late middle or early old age, seeing their children into adulthood and their grandchildren born. Abigail died violently, but most died of various but often unspecified diseases. None are said to have died as a direct consequence of childbirth although Mildred was pregnant when she died.

Disappointing though it is that we have got to see little of the characters of the women in Phineas’ life, only seeing the often bald facts of their births, marriages, childbearing, illness and death and Phineas’ responses to them, I think we can see a little of the sort of lives the Early Modern Englishwoman led even from this rather masculine account of a the life of a shipbuilder.

At the risk of finishing on a male-centric note, looking at Phineas’ relationship with the women in his life also rehabilitates Phineas himself a little. He often comes often comes across as arrogant, grasping and spiteful in his business and personal relationships with men but in his kindness and generosity to (most of, at least) the women in his family, his affection towards them and the poignancy of the moments of tragedy he relates I see a more sypathetic man than a it would first appear.

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Also see Part 1 and Part 2 of this article

The Pett Women Part 2: Wives and Daughters; Love, Loss and a Surfeit of Grapes

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Phineas Pett Married three times. His first marriage, to Ann Nichols, seems to have been entirely for love. In 1597, Phineas’ mother had just died and he was starting on his first supervisory shipbuilding work. It was then “first fell in love with my now wife”

During the continuance of this work I did not neglect my wooing, having taken such a liking of the maiden that I determined resolutely (by God’s help) either to match with her or never to marry any ; the which I with much difficulty (praised be God) at length achieved, all my own kindred being much against my matching with her, by reason of some controversies grown twixt Mr. Nicolas Simonson and them.

It isn’t clear what the connection is between Simonson (one of the owners of the ship Phineas was repairing) and Ann’s father, Richard (“a man of good report and honest stock”), but despite the objections of the Pett clan the couple were married in 1598. We don’t know how old Anne was when they married. Phineas was 28 and Ann would have her last child 22 years later, so probably in her late teens or early twenties.

She had ten full term pregnancies and eleven children, including one pair of twins, spaced fairly evenly two years apart. Eight of them survived into adulthood. She suffered the loss of three children and one adult son. In 1613, her secondborn, the ten year old Henry died. Phineas is uncharacterisitically detached, simply reporting the death between semi-colons, sharing the sentence with the death of a carver and the return of a sailor. In 1617 (“a very fatal and troublesome year”) they lost two more, a young Phineas aged two and Mary, the eldest of the twin girls born in April of that year at just six months old. She also outlived Joseph, who died in Ireland in his late teens, but we hear nothing of Ann’s reaction to these losses.

Ann appears regularly, although usually in passing, through the course of their marriage. Usually Phineas is reporting either moving house, moving his family to avoid various sicknesses, or to report on Ann’s health. We are told that she was sick during her preganancy with their first, John and when pregnant with Phineas) she had an illness which clearly greatly worried Phineas, but has a gloriously eccentric diagnosis.

my wife sickened of a surfeit of eating too many grapes, which had like to have cost her her life

Whether this is an example of Early Modern medical bluster, or Phineas’ view of the consequence of his wife’s vice is unclear. The pregnancy with the twins was, inevitably also difficult. A month before they were born, in March 1617

she being so big with child that I was forced to carry her by coach and that very leisurely for that she was with child with two twins

At the end of 1617, shortly after losing Mary and young Phineas, Ann was again very ill.

My dear loving wife sickened at Chatham the 29th December, and hardly escaped with life, yet it pleased God she did recover

She was, however to live for another ten years (and to deliver two more healthy children), before in 1627

The 14th February, being Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day, my dear wife Ann departed this life in the morning, and was buried the Friday after in Chatham Church in the evening, leaving behind her a disconsolate husband and sad family. Not long after, I being at London, my only sister then living, Mary Cooper, departed this life the fifth of March, for the very grief of the loss of my dear wife.

Again we don’t know how old she was when she died, but it was 29 years after her marriage, and eight years after her last recorded birth so probably her late forties or early fifties. Although all we have of Ann are expressions of love at their engagement, the grief of Phineas and his family at her death and sporadic terms of endearment and worry in between, not withstanding his rapid remarriage, it does feel like a loving as well as long marriage

Whilst his marriage to Ann was one of love, his second marriage, to Susan Yardley was almost certainly a practical arrangement. Ann had been dead only five months when Phineas married Susan. Phineas and Ann’s first son, John, had married Katherine Yardley in 1625. John had then died at sea (a not uncommon fate for the Pett men) leaving Katherine as a pregnant widow. Susan was Katherine’s mother, i.e. he married his late son’s mother-in-law. I’m very curious how common practice this was. Was it a customary expedient, or would it have been considered odd? Susan would have been a mature woman, probably about Ann’s age- already a mother to a grown up daughter and a grandmother and there were no children from this second marriage. Ann left several children, the youngest only seven and Susan was a family friend who could raise the remainder of Ann’s children, presumably also looking after Katherine (whose son, Phineas, lived to be one of the ubiquitous Pett shipbuilders of his generation).

Phineas marriage with Susan lasted ten years, during which time she is hardly mentioned in the autobiography, although admittedly by this point in the book each year was given less attention and the narrative was far less personal than earlier. After an illness of some weeks, on 21st July 1637

She fell into a sweet sleep and so like [a] lamb quietly departed this life

Whilst it is easy to view Ann’s marriage as one of love and Susan’s as one of comfortable convenience, Phineas’ third and final marriage is much harder to fathom out. Again, he married very soon after his bereavement in January 1638. However the first mention of her is in July, when he describes her, almost as an aside, as his “now wife”. Even more strangely, he calls her “Bylande” in this first reference, when it is clear later on that her Christian name was Mildred and her father’s name Etherington. The autobiography’s editors suggest that she may have been another widow and Bylande may have been her previous husband’s name, but this would seem, even for the sometimes bewildering Phineas, an odd way to introduce her.

Sadly, the marriage was a brief one. On September 8th his “dear wife sickened! Taken with a violent fever, being then great with child” and on the 19th “she departed this life in a most Christian manner”.

I’m rather intrigued by Mildred. Who was she and how did this marriage come about? She may or may not have been another widow, but she was pregnant when she died, so clearly much younger than Phineas, who was 68 in 1638. Ann’s children would have been in less need of a stepmother by this time (the youngest, Christopher, would have been 18). Was she the young object of fancy for an aging, but by this time quite wealthy and prominent and clearly still sexually potent man? We can only speculate, but she was Phineas last wife, although he lived for another nine years.

Both Ann and Phineas’ remaining daughters survived to adulthood and both may have married men related to their father’s trade. Ann, their eldest daughter may have been the Mrs. Ackworth, who Pepys describes in 1661 as a “very proper, lovely woman” married to the “knave” William Ackworth, but there is some confusion about this. The surviving twin, Martha, married Master Carpenter and Phineas’ erstwhile apprentice John Hodierene (or Odierene) when she was twenty. We don’t know of their eventual fate.

In Part Three, after a quick survey of other women who make fleeting appearances in Phineas’ life along with some final thoughts.

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One quick erratum from my previous post. It seems that Phineas was preceded by twin sisters Jane and Suzannah, who both died, presumably as infants in 1567. I’ve edited the post to reflect this.