Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pick a Side

For some time now I have been trying to get the whole Lancaster vs York thing straight in my mind with regard to The War of the Roses. As most of the magnates involved are descended from Edward III (all credit to Phillipa of Hainault!) it is a family affair but I feel as though I want to choose sides.

I just want to know who was right and who was wrong!

Up until this point I have felt distinctly Lancastrian however through my recent readings I have discovered that while more knowledge makes some things clearer, it can also make things more complicated.

I now understand the family tree for this period, and if I squint and really concentrate I can see it in my mind and follow the blood lines through. But both sides have done some really bad things, and not always for good reasons. Both sides have killed a King and it seems that almost everyone has plotted to kill one, except one poor soul who has been executed for plotting to kill one despite being innocent.

It seems I am going to have to be my own judge on this one and that's not easy. I know we all make judgements all the time; right and wrong is defined by our laws, customs and up bringing. And don't get me wrong, I can pass judgement as good as the next man but I am finding myself at odds with this one.

I think I am going to reserve final judgement until I have completed the saga, which is probably going to be about 3 history books from now, and may then require further reading and revisiting previously read texts!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Henry V

I am coming to a crucial bit in my Henry V book and am troubled. I have read about many English Kings now, some I like, some I don't, but I have tried to understand them all so that I may make my own opinion on their cause and justifications.

I like Henry V, well at least I want to, but I do not believe in his cause. (Image Credit: Silva Animation)

I have always liked my warrior/ battle stories, and reading about a battle can be incredibly exciting when you believe in the perpetrator; when you don't it is a sad tale of events that wreak havoc on thousands of peoples lives, like a wave of suffering and destruction; and if there was one thing they knew how to do in medieval times it was make people suffer! I think Henry's cause is misguided and believe him intelligent enough to have been able to change the course of events if he had considered the bigger picture and believed in himself. 

Perhaps I am wrong; perhaps given his Father's unorthodox route to Kingship he would always be driven to seek proof of his right to rule; which I believe is much of his incentive for the war on France.

I have not read Shakespeare's Henry V but am familiar with some of the quotations, which I have looked up this morning, and some of his other notable quotations have sprung to mind also. They all make me very sad.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect.'
(Henry V 3.1.1)

'I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit; and , upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry! England and Saint George!'
(Henry V 3.1.31)

This one is not from Henry V but came into my head as I have recently learned what it meant to 'Cry Havoc' in medieval battle times. The phrase was a signal to the soldiers to plunder and wreak chaos. 

Marcus Antonius:

'And Caesar's spirit, raging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.'
(Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 1)

And lastly, I leave you with the quote that popped in there first thing and was the impetus for this post.

Methinks I could not die any where so contented as in the King's company, his cause being just and his quarrel honourable.

(Henry V 4.1)

In Shakespeare's Henry V, the King dons the clothes of a soldier so as to walk un-recognised amongst his men on the eve of battle. He speaks this line to two soldiers and, given my opinion of his cause and quarrel, I think it is something only Henry V himself could say. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Precious Things

My current book and precious possession - History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth


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