On this day in history….31st August 1422

On this day in history : 31st August 1422 – The death of King Henry V…. He is succeeded by his only son and heir, Henry VI – who is just 9 months old….

King Henry V – Public domain

Henry V died suddenly at Chateau de Vincennes, in the royal fortress town of Vincennes, to the east of Paris…. He is believed by many to have died from dysentery; some historians think he contracted this at the Siege of Meaux – which was fought between the English and the French during the Hundred Years’ War…. He had become ill during the long battle, which had taken place during the winter months – it is, therefore, disputed that dysentery was the cause of his death as he would undoubtedly have died long before August…. Another possible cause could have been heatstroke, as he had been riding in full armour in the blistering heat…. Henry V was 35 years old and had reigned for nine years…. Just two years before, in 1420, he had married Catherine of Valois, the daughter of Charles VI of France – and their son Henry, was born at Windsor Castle on the 6th of December, 1421….

Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Valois – British Library – Public domain

Henry V had died before he could be crowned King of France…. His body was returned to England and on the 7th of November 1422 he was buried at Westminster Abbey…. Not long before his death he had named his brother, the Duke of Bedford, as Regent of France, in name of his young son Henry VI….

Henry VI was the youngest ever to succeed the throne…. On the 21st of October 1422 he also became the King of France, following the death of his grandfather, Charles VI of France – and in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Troyes, which was made after Henry V’s victory in France….

Catherine of Valois was treated with suspicion by the English as she was the daughter of Charles VI and she was prevented from having a major part in the upbringing of her son…. On the 26th of September 1423 nobles of England summoned Parliament in the young King’s name to establish a regency council to govern until Henry VI came of age…. The Duke of Bedford was appointed Senior Regent of the Realm….

Henry VI was headstrong and unruly as a child – but finally in 1437 he was considered old enough to rule for himself….

King Henry VI – Public domain

On this day in history….2nd August 1100

On this day in history : 2nd August 1100 – King William II of England is killed by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest – after supposedly being mistaken for a deer….

William II of England – Public domain

William was the third son of William the Conqueror and was often known as William Rufus on account of his ruddy complexion and red hair…. He was not a popular king; as well as levying heavy taxes on his subjects he was considered as a harsh, severe and ruthless monarch….a barbarian, with no respect for his people…. He wasn’t on particularly good terms with the Church either….

The story goes, according to Malmesbury in his circa 1128 book ‘Chronicle of the Kings of the English’, something like this…. William had an ominous dream, which filled him with trepidation…. But nevertheless, the following afternoon he went into the forest, near to Brockenhurst, on a hunting expedition…. Whilst most of the party went on the chase William remained, attended by Frenchman Walter Tyrrell, Lord of Poix…. As the sun began to go down a stag ran through the trees nearby – the King took up his bow and fired an arrow – but only managed to slightly wound the stag…. As the King stood, with his hand shielding his eyes against the sun to watch the stag run, Walter attempted a shot…. But the arrow struck William – and Walter jumped on his horse and fled….

Whilst it had always been widely accepted that William’s death was an accident there has also always been the niggling question as to whether he was actually assassinated…. Some believe Walter was acting on behalf of William’s younger brother, Henry, who had a wish to claim the throne….

Indeed, when looking at the story that emerges from what the historians have pieced together, it does seem to be a little more than simply a tragic accident…. The hunting party consisted of William Rufus, Walter Tyrrell, Gilbert and Roger de Clare and William’s younger brother Henry…. The party divided into two groups in order to chase the deer and wild boar…. Walter, who was the King’s best archer, paired with the King – and it does appear that he fired the fatal arrow…. Some accounts say he saw a movement in the trees and fired, thinking it to be a deer…. Others say he fired an arrow to finish off the stag that the King had wounded – only for it to hit an oak tree, bounce back and strike William in the chest, piercing his lung…. By breaking off the arrow William managed to speed up his own death…. Walter, fearing the consequences, fled to France never to return….

Death of William II – Lithograph 1895 – Public domain

Henry’s reaction was a little suspicious…. Instead of claiming his brother’s body he dashed off to the Treasury at Winchester to declare himself the new King of England…. The de Clares, being loyal supporters of Henry, were rewarded handsomely for their loyalty…. Nobody went after Walter…. William Rufus’s body was found by a charcoal burner – and it was he who carried the dead king back to Winchester….

In recent years there has been some doubt cast on the exact location of William’s death – some think it may have actually happened in the Beaulieu area…. But at the place where legend says it occurred stands the Rufus Stone….and inscribed upon it….

‘Here stood the oak tree, on which the arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a stag, glanced and struck King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100’….

A mature oak tree stands alongside….not the original one of course – but perhaps from one of its acorns?

The Rufus Stone – Image credit : David Hunt – own work – Public domain

On this day in history….17th July 1917

On this day in history : 17th July 1917 – The Royal family adopts the name ‘Windsor’ in a proclamation by King George V, in place of the official name ‘Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’….

George V – Public domain

The proclamation stated that the name of the Royal House and all British descendants of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert via the male line were to bear the name Windsor – women who married into other families would take that name….

“Now, therefore, We, out of Our Royal Will and Authority do hereby declare and announce that as from the date of this Our Royal Proclamation Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that all the descendants in the male line of Our said Grandmother Queen Victoria who are subjects of these Realms, other than female descendants who may marry or may have married, shall bear the said Name of Windsor”….

Badge of the House of Windsor

In 1901 the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha had succeeded the House of Hanover in the British Monarchy, with King Edward VII, son of Victoria and Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, coming to the throne…. Because of anti-German feelings during World War One it was felt necessary to change the name of the Royal family…. ‘Windsor’ was chosen because of the family association with Windsor Castle and the town of Windsor…. George V’s German cousin, Emperor Wilhelm II joked that he was going to the theatre to see the play ‘The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’ in reference to Shakespeare’s ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’….

‘A Good Riddance’ – cartoon from ‘Punch’, June 1917 – Public domain

On this day in history….1st July 1969

On this day in history : 1st July 1969 – Prince Charles is invested Prince of Wales by his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, at Caernarfon Castle, in North Wales….

Caernarfon Castle prepared for the Investiture

Prince Charles had been created the Prince of Wales on the 26th of July 1958, when he was just 9-years-old – but it was 11 years later, when he was 20, that his investiture took place…. It is a title traditionally given to the eldest son of the reigning monarch…. Prince Charles is the longest serving Prince of Wales in British history, making him the longest waiting heir ever to become monarch….

The tradition began in 1301, when King Edward I of England gave the title to his son, Prince Edward (later to become King Edward II)…. It was after deposing the last native Prince of Wales, Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, following the conquering of Wales….

Millions of people watched the investiture of Prince Charles on television and huge crowds were attracted to Caernarfon – and to the castle which had seen the investiture in 1911 of Edward VIII before him….

Image credit : Journalist Geoff Charles – National Library of Wales CC0
Image credit : Journalist Geoff Charles – National Library of Wales CC0

The centuries old custom involved the Secretary of State for Wales, who read the Letters Patent in Welsh…. The Queen then bestowed upon Charles a sword, coronet, ring, the gold rod and the kingly mantle…. Prince Charles then took his oath….

“I, Charles, Prince of Wales, do become your liege man of life and limb and of earthly worship and faith and truth I will bear unto thee to live and die against all manner of folks”….

He then gave a speech in both Welsh and English….

Image : Pinterest

On this day in history….28th June 1838

On this day in history : 28th June 1838 – The Coronation, at Westminster Abbey, of Queen Victoria – in a five hour long botched service full of mis-fortunate mishaps….

Sir George Hayter – Public domain

Victoria came to the throne after the death of her uncle, William IV, on the 20th of June 1837…. She was 18 years old and her Coronation took place a year later…. With a year to plan such an event one would imagine things to run smoothly on the day – but this was not entirely to be the case….

When writing in her diary to record the day Victoria remarked “I shall remember this day as the proudest of my life”…. There would have been those who remembered the day for very different reasons – but indeed Victoria had every right to feel proud – and not least for the way she managed to hold it together….

Sir George Hayter – Public domain

It could perhaps be said that Victoria was more than a little responsible for some of the difficulties of the day herself…. There had been very little rehearsal for the ceremony – she had only visited the Abbey on the eve of the Coronation and even then only after persuasion from Prime Minister Lord Melbourne…. She insisted she knew what she was meant to be doing – saying she understood where to stand and when to move throughout the ceremony – although it is highly likely she had forgotten half of it by the time came….

As the day dawned clusters of people began to gather in London…. With the advent of the railways it had become easy for people to travel – soon the numbers had swelled to some 400,000 – lining the route to Westminster Abbey….

The Gold State Coach – Image credit: Steve F.E. Cameron – own work – CC BY-SA 3.0

The lengthy service involved two changes of dress for the Queen and when not needed for the proceedings it had been arranged that the royal party should retreat to St. Edward’s Chapel…. Whilst a chapel in every sense of the word it certainly did not resemble one on this occasion…. The altar was piled with plates of sandwiches and bottles of wine….people’s possessions and paraphernalia were littered everywhere…. Victoria was quite appalled at the state of the place….

Placing the crown upon the Queen’s head went more or less according to plan – but it is a shame the same cannot be said for the Coronation ring…. The ring had been sized to fit Victoria’s little finger but the Archbishop forced it on to her ring finger…. After the ceremony Victoria had to painfully struggle to remove it – having to resort to soaking her hand in iced water to reduce the swelling….

The Bishop of Durham then gave her the ceremonial orb at the wrong time in the ceremony and the Bishop of Bath and Wells managed to turn over two pages of the order of service and missed out a crucial chunk of the proceedings – Victoria had to be called back so that it could be repeated….

If it wasn’t her bishops giving her grief it was her Lords…. As the peers came before the new Queen to pay their respects one in particular, Lord John Rolle, Devon’s wealthiest landowner at the time, came a right cropper! As he mounted the steps leading up to her he tripped – and in an action truly befitting his name – he dramatically rolled back down to the bottom…. Luckily he was unhurt – well, maybe his pride was a little dented – and he was determined to fulfil his duty….so started the ascent again…. Showing concern Victoria rose and went down the steps to meet him…. It was an act that was seen as being both gracious and kind by many – but there were those who were not willing to show such kindness towards his Lordship….

“Then the trumpets braying, and the organ playing,
And the sweet trombones, with their silver tones,
But Lord Rolle was rolling; ‘twas mighty consoling
To think his Lordship did not break his bones!”
- Mr Barney Maguire

After this catalogue of events a new programme was put together ready for the next Coronation…. Thankfully they got it right the next time – but then they did have 63 years to plan it….

Coronation of Queen Victoria by Edmund Thomas Parris – Public domain