Ask the British History Geek

I am fond of reading about British history and if you have any questions or wish to discuss something I would be glad to help. My interest is mainly in the time between the end of the Roman period ( c410 CE ) and the English Civil Wars ( 1642CE - 1646CE ) with my main interest being in the Saxon period ( pre-1066CE ). I am not a professional historian, but I have read up on the topic.

My purpose in this thread is to have some enjoyable discussion, and also to qualify for Tymp’s panel of experts.

OK: Robin Hood - the man behind the legend, and did he really have fourscore merry men? Please be careful not to dispel too many of my cherished childhood beliefs.

Arnold, you of all people!!!

Cecil’s column.

I have little to add to Cecil’s answer, except to note that despite the Sherwood Forest legends, the Longbow was originaly developed by the Welsh, and they were its greatest practitioners.

I asked this of the Brit Bloke in GD, but he didn’t answer (although he did respond to my other question) – and mom always said, if the Bloke doesn’t work, go for the Geek.

Is there consensus on who killed the princes in the Tower? Does anyone still care? Any new leads?

And lucky you! What a fascinating subject to be studying.

Is there any true historical background to the story The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Suttcliff? For those who didn’t read it in High School, it deals with a Roman Legion sent north in England to fight an uprising, who are basically wiped out to the last man.

Sorry, Auntie Pam, I must’ve missed your question.

I honestly have no idea. I’ll search for a while and see if I can dig anything up.

The first thing I could find:

Or here’s a mock trial exonerating Richard III by law students at Indiana University.

Thanks, mattk – I hadn’t heard about the mock trial, and the article was interesting. I agree that Richard III was a victim of bad press.

But the continued mystery is intriguing. Rather romantic, even. Guess it’s okay that we don’t know the truth about everything.

hey are you just using this thread to qualify for the expert panel over in GD?

Factoids float around inside my head.

Is it true that at the Battle of Hastings, Harold actually held the high ground, and he would have won, except that he and his men over-enthusiastically charged downhill, straight into the Norman calvalry, who were using a new invention, the stirrup, thus enabling the Normans to cut the Saxons to pieces from their saddles with relative ease, instead of dismounting and fighting on foot as per the usual procedure?

Got this factoid from James Burke’s Connections TV series. I’ve often wondered how much of his stuff was stretching the truth just a teeeeny bit.

This is folklore, not history, but still it’s been driving me crazy for YEARS:

WHAT is “Morris dancing” FOR? Or derived FROM? Dancing around a Maypole I can understand, that’s derived from pagan fertility rites, but Morris dancing? What IS it? What’s with the bells, and the straps, and only men? AAAARRRGGHH!!

And what, please, is “nine men’s morris”? Does it have something to do with hanging?

(Yes, I know “nine men’s morris” is a game, but what’s the name from? What do nine men have to do with it, and what’s a morris?)

Sorry, 2sense, I don’t mean to steal your thunder. In a moment of too-skint-to-go-out-on-a-Saturday-night boredom, I found this:

The Battle of Hastings - it’s a very detailed pre-history and examination of the battle.

According to the site, William was losing quite badly thanks to the English archers, until a failed attack by his left flank (Breton cavalry) unintentionally lured less-disciplined English soldiers into an attack, where they were cut to pieces as William regrouped his stronger divisions to attack the attackers’ flank.

After that it was all about attrition, with William better able to take the casualties. At the same time, he hit upon the idea of ordering his archers to fire over the English shield wall rather than directly at it (well duh, William). The English took heavy casualties and panicked, with the confusion and gaps in the line allowing the Norman cavalry to attack - and it was during these attacks that Harold was killed.

Re: morris dancing - according to

As has been noted, we do not know what happened to the “princes in the tower”. We probably will never be certain. I care, and in my opinion Richard the 3rd was as guilty as hell. He had the most to gain, and he was charged with their protection. His treachery in gaining the throne did him little good. He was the last of the Plantagenet Kings.

BTW- I am not studying this for any real purpose. It is merely a hobby.

I am not familiar with The Eagle of the Ninth. I have been unable to find any reference to the 9th Legion in any of my books. The Roman period is not my main strong point. Did this perhaps take place in 367 CE during the great invasion by the Picts, Saxons, and Celts?

Partly, see OP. :slight_smile:

Re: the IX Legion. A quick web search reveals only that the legion was stationed at Lindum (?), and after Boudicca/Boadicea started posing a serious threat it was sent to counter her; a detachment of around 2,000 men was massacred, and the legion retreated, but once reinforcements arrived the Britons were wiped out.

I was wondering about this. The Saxon kings moved from place to place, correct? I mean, there was no single fixed royal residence, even during the life of a single king? Do we know whose houses they stayed at? Some Earl with a nice castle and a loyal record?

When the king stayed at your house, was this a big gift from King to Earl (i.e. the King paid a Royal rent for his subjects’ generosity) or vice versa (i.e. the King just hung around and the Earl was really generous)?

Are any of these building still around?

I heard the surname “FitzRobert” applied to William the Conqueror. Is that accepted practice or is somebody speculating?

Hi Ducky,

In reply to your Battle of Hastings question:

Would have won is speculative, of course, but King Harold had chosen his battleground well. I would think that if he could have lasted the day ( which the English almost did ) then he would have been in good shape. I looked over the site that mattk linked to. It seems accurate. You will note that matt read it incorrectly, it states that the English had no archers, only “spears, javelins, and rocks”. Unlike the famous battles of the Hundred Years War, time was on the side of the English. They were in a position to recieve supplies and reinforcements. So William the Bastard had to attack or concede. But we can never know for sure.

Both C.W.C. Oman ( The Art of War in the Middle Ages ) and Edward S. Creasy ( Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World ) seem to feel that the feigned retreat was key. The latter work also mention the Norman archers first shooting at the shieldwall and then changing their aim.

As to the part of your question regarding the stirrup, I believe the estimable James Burke is mistaken. Archer Jones, in his The Art of War in the Western World, states that stirrups were introduced to western Europe early in the 8th century.

I know nothing about your “morris” questions and I hope that matt has helped you there. Battle questions GOOD, dancing questions BAD!

Thanks for playing along. If you have more, please let me know.