This week I want to draw your attention to a few of the lectures that will be taking place at the Tudors and Stuarts History Weekend on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th April. For full details see: www.canterbury.ac.uk/tudors-stuarts but before that yesterday was our Kent History postgraduates meeting, the presentations given by Dean Irwin and then Lily Hawker-Yates.
I must admit I thought the Centre was busy in October, but things really move up a gear in November. Starting with the event in the Powell Building next Friday to mark the centenary of the signing of the Armistice that Dr Martin Watts is heavily involved in. For details of the talks, readings and music, please call 01227 922994. The following week will see Professor Louise Wilkinson speaking to Canterbury Historical and Archaeological Society on ‘Women and chivalry’ in Newton, Ng03 at 7pm on the Wednesday and then on Saturday 17 November will be the ‘Exploring Kentish Naming Practices’ conference (with Kent Archaeology Society) www.canterbury.ac.uk/kent-names .
Because ‘War Horse’ has arrived in the cathedral precincts, I thought I would again draw attention to the ‘100 Years since Armistice’ event that will be taking place on Friday 9 November at Canterbury Christ Church. Details of the talks, music and readings during the day-long programme are available by calling 01227 922994.
This has marked another busy week for the Centre, but before I come to that I thought I would let you know that tickets for the Tudors and Stuarts History Weekend on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 April 2019 are selling well already. Among the talks that people are interested in so far are Dr Helen Castor’s discussion of Elizabeth I; Dr David Starkey’s exploration of aspects of Henry VII’s ‘highly idiosyncratic reign’; Dr Clive Holmes’ examination of why Oliver Cromwell was not a persecutor of witches, and Professor Andrew Hopper’s investigation into the human costs of the English Civil Wars, which draws on his exciting new work on petitions made by wounded soldiers and others who sought financial help from successive governments during the mid 17th century. Please do have a look at the full listing, then select to make your own choices within our pick-and-mix scheme to tailor ‘your programme’ to your interests, and perhaps those of your friends.
I’m delighted to say that the ‘Tudors and Stuarts History Weekend 2019’ website is almost there and all being well it will be possible to book tickets for the tours from later next week, including those led by Paul Bennett (Canterbury Archaeological Trust). These tickets always go pretty quickly, so if you are interested, please do book early to avoid disappointment.
This is just a short piece before the Centre’s blog has a fortnight’s break for the summer. Consequently, I thought I would bring you up-to-date with things, including the fact that all the information for Tudors and Stuarts History Weekend 2019 has now gone to Matthew Crockatt, the Faculty’s web designer and organiser, and to Ruth Duckworth at Canterbury Christ Church’s box office, who handles the booking part of the web site. In addition, Finance has received the initial budget and although they are extremely busy with the financial year end, hopefully in the next few weeks the Centre will receive the relevant finance codes to ensure matters are set up properly. Among the many speakers who are due to come on Saturday 13 or Sunday 14 April are Dr Clive Holmes (Why Oliver Cromwell didn’t persecute witches), Dr Amy Blakeway (The downfall of Mary, Queen of Scots), Dr David Starkey (Henry VII’s Chamber), and Dr Miranda Kaufmann (Black Tudors). As at previous History Weekends, the idea is to generate a surplus which goes to support postgraduates researching Kent’s history through the Ian Coulson Memorial Postgraduate Award fund.
After another very successful History Weekend, I would first like to thank all the great speakers (see below), but equally the brilliant audiences we had at all 27 events from ‘Saturn’s Fury’ puppet show in Waterstones on Friday morning to Dr Michael Jones’ talk on the Black Prince and Professor Carenza Lewis’ lecture on new discoveries about the impact of the Black Death that were the last parallel events on Sunday afternoon. Without YOU the audience the Weekend would be meaningless, and your enthusiasm, engagement and searching questions covering the wide range of topics on offer was wonderful from the organisers’ perspective – THANK YOU!
Jeanette Earl mentioned that she had seen a report in the Independent on Thursday, in which the 60 plus writers of the Historical Writers Association had conducted a poll recently at the Harrogate History Festival concerning the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ English monarchs. According to the writers, the worst was Henry VIII who was condemned as “self-indulgent” and a king who “ruled with little more policy than petulant self-gratification”, while his daughter Elizabeth I was voted the best. Interesting choices and yet again I might argue they show just how good the Tudors remain at capturing the public imagination, whether it is a brooding Thomas Cromwell at Wolf Hall or Elizabeth dancing with Robert Dudley – if you don’t know the latter, a contemporary painting at Penshurst Place will enlighten you. Of the others who were at the wrong end of the poll, Charles I is probably not that much of a surprise, and King John similarly came out poorly in the popularity stakes. John’s inclusion is to be expected considering the focus on Magna Carta this year, and on the subject of anniversaries, I might have expected Henry V to have been somewhere near the top of the ‘best’ considering the next big anniversary this year in that of the Battle of Agincourt. Yet, just as there are some noteworthy Tudor monarchs, their medieval predecessors are actually equally interesting although some may be less well known more generally.
King Henry IV (d.1413) and Queen Joan of Navarre (d.1437)
However for those who come to the Medieval Canterbury Weekend next April 1 – 3, you will get a chance to hear Dan Jones, Helen Castor, David Carpenter and Louise Wilkinson talking about many of the fascinating members of the medieval royals, including those from among the Plantagenets, a highly colourful group of kings, queens and princesses if ever there was. Another royal who will feature, one who spent quite a time as the king-in-waiting but then never actually made it, his son following Edward III instead, is the Black Prince. These royals were complex characters and the Black Prince definitely fits that description, as Michael Jones will discuss on Saturday 2 April. As Prince Edward (the Black Prince name came later) he resides in a fine tomb in Canterbury Cathedral, even though not where he intended, and across the way on the other side of the site of Becket’s shrine is the tomb of Henry IV – who took the throne from the Black Prince’s son Richard II and who definitely did want to be that close to the martyred archbishop’s shrine.
Returning to the poll, it is interesting that Richard III was not mentioned in the report but perhaps Leicester’s activities on his behalf have countered Shakespeare’s image somewhat. Yet if we discount his brother Edward IV, the Lancastrian kings either side: Henry VI and Henry VII may not have been as physically big as Henry VIII but are remarkable and even, perhaps, more controversial. ‘Poor’ Henry VI has in the past been seen as a loser who totally failed to live up to his father’s gigantic reputation as a military commander, and who was more saintly mouse than anything else. However for those who come to hear David Grummitt you will get a more nuanced understanding of his reign and contemporary ideas about kingship. While for those to come to David Starkey’s talk on Henry VII, you will gain insights into an exceedingly interesting personality and a king who can be viewed as sitting uneasily on the cusp of a ‘new’ monarchy.
Thus like their Plantagenet forebears, the Lancastrians (and Yorkist) kings of the 15th century remain fascinating individuals, and the times they lived in are equally remarkable. Indeed the itinerant ‘Fifteenth Century Conference’ will be in Canterbury next week, being based ‘up the hill’ at the University of Kent. A number of royals will be discussed in several of the papers, but equally prominent are senior churchmen such as Archbishop Chichele, Cardinal Beaufort and Cardinal Kemp. Chichele’s tomb in Canterbury Cathedral is certainly worth visiting and is an excellent example of the late medieval phenomenon, the transi-tomb where the individual’s effigy is finely dressed on top and devoured by worms below, the skeleton a reminder of what will happen to all. In Chichele’s case he could contemplate his own mortality as he sat opposite his already completed funeral monument. And on that note I will end this week, but just to say that for those of you who are interested in topics outside of kings and queens, the Medieval Weekend has lots of other subjects on offer – from relics and pilgrims, to the Black Death and ‘poxy pigges’, so do check out the webpages at: www.canterbury.ac.uk/medieval-canterbury