On this day in history…. 27th October 1917

On this day in history : 27th October 1917 – The death of Arthur Rhys-Davids – flying ace of the First World War and the victor of one of the most famous dog fights of the War….

Portrait of Lieutenant Arthur Rhys-Davids – From the collections of the Imperial War Museums – Public domain

As soon as he had finished his schooling Arthur deferred his entry to Oxford University and joined the Royal Flying Corps…. He first reported for duty on the 28th of August 1916 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps Special Reserve in Oxford and began his training…. He was then to join 56 Squadron at London Colney….

At the beginning of April 1917 the Squadron flew to France and were to based at Vert Galand…. Arthur was to get his first taste of aerial combat on the 7th of May…. He was to encounter a German pilot far more experienced than he was; despite being shot down he lived to tell the tale…. Others were not so lucky; it was a disastrous day for the Squadron, only five aircraft returned to Vert Galand….

Royal AircraftFactory S.E.5 – the type of aircraft Rhys-Davids would have flown – Public domain

On the 23rd of May Arthur scored his first victory – shooting down an Albatross D.111 fighter…. The following day he had three more victories – in just one hour…. And on the 25th he succeeded in bringing down another aircraft – with five victories to his name Arthur was now a flying ace…. On the 25th of June 1917 he learned that he had been awarded the Military Cross….

During an evening flying patrol on the 23rd of September 1917 several members of 56 Squadron, including Arthur, encountered German flying ace Werner Voss…. Credited with 48 victories Voss was much feared but also much admired…. Only at this stage Arthur and his comrades were unaware of who it was they had come across….

The six aircraft of Arthur’s patrol had become involved in a dog fight involving large numbers of aircraft from both sides – when suddenly Voss appeared amidst them…. “The German triplane was in the middle of our formation, and its handling was wonderful to behold. The pilot seemed to be firing at us all simultaneously, and although I got behind him a second time, I could hardly stay there for a second. His movements were so quick and uncertain”…. ~ James McCudden – (one of the most highly decorated airmen in British history and who was flying in the same patrol as Arthur that particular evening…. McCudden was eventually killed in action on the 9th of July 1918)….

The German made no attempt to escape and the six British pilots were now engaged in a ferocious battle with him…. Voss fired and hit McCudden in the wing, then forced two more of the British aircraft out of the fight with hits to their engines…. More British and German planes joined in but still Voss in his Fokker triplane managed to evade them…. Eventually he made a flat turn and Arthur saw an opportunity and managed to get on his tail…. Arthur fired and the Fokker dived towards German lines with the young British pilot still behind him…. But then Voss made an error…. Arthur made a turn away – and the German, mis-reading the situation, turned with him – bringing his aircraft back into Arthur’s firing line – who let him have it full pelt, taking the Fokker down….

When the patrol returned to base it was still unknown to them who the mystery pilot was…. When the Germans announced that their ace pilot Werner Voss was missing in action jubilation broke out in the ranks of 56 Squadron, with showers of congratulations for Arthur….who was later to say…. “If only I could have brought him down alive”….

Werner Voss – a card from the private collection by Scinke, Berlin 1917 – PD-US

On the 27th of October 1917 Arthur was promoted to Lieutenant, backdated to the 1st of September…. Later that same day he took off on a routine patrol and was last seen chasing after a group of German Albatross fighters…. It was just a month after his 20th birthday – he was never found….

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….

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