* 1066 – The Norman conquest of England begins with the Battle of Hastings.
William I-II the Conqueror, King of England and Duke of Normandy.
The Battle of Hastings was fought on October 14, 1066 between the Norman-French army of William II, Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II Godwinson, beginning the Norman conquest of England. It took place approximately 7 miles (11 kilometres) northwest of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex, and was a decisive Norman victory.
The day after the battle, Harold’s body was identified, either by his armour or marks on his body. Harold II’s personal standard was presented to William and later sent to the papacy.
William expected to receive the submission of the surviving English leaders after his victory, but instead Edgar the Ætheling was proclaimed king by the Witenagemot, with the support of Earls Edwin and Morcar, Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Ealdred, the Archbishop of York. William therefore advanced on London, marching around the coast of Kent. He defeated an English force that attacked him at Southwark but was unable to storm London Bridge, forcing him to reach the capital by a more circuitous route.
William moved up the Thames valley to cross the river at Wallingford, where he received the submission of Stigand. He then travelled north-east along the Chilterns, before advancing towards London from the north-west, fighting further engagements against forces from the city. The English leaders surrendered to William at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. William was acclaimed King of England and crowned by Ealdred on December 25, 1066, in Westminster Abbey.
(See entry tomorrow for more information Edgar the Ætheling being proclaimed King of England).
* 1322 – King Robert I the Bruce of Scotland defeats King Edward II of England at the Battle of Old Byland, forcing Edward to accept Scotland’s independence.
Robert I, King of Scots.
The Battle of Old Byland (also known as the Battle of Byland Moor and Battle of Byland Abbey) was a significant encounter between Scots and English troops in Yorkshire on October 14, 1322, forming part of the Wars of Scottish Independence. It was a victory for the Scots, the most significant since Bannockburn, though on a far smaller scale.
Ever since Robert Bruce’s victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, the Scots had taken the initiative in the wars with England, raiding deep into the north of the country repeatedly and with comparative ease to attempt to force the English to the peace-table. The English king, Edward II seemed incapable of dealing with the problem, distracted, as he often was, in a political struggle with his own barons and refused to even begin peace negotiations with the Scots which would have required recognizing Robert the Bruce as King of the Scots. In early 1322 the situation had become critical, with some senior English noblemen, headed by Thomas of Lancaster, preparing to enter into an alliance with the Scots.
By the time Edward II was ready to begin his advance in early August Bruce was more than ready. He deployed his usual tactics: crops were destroyed and livestock removed and his army withdrawn north of the River Forth. Bruce crossed the Solway in the west, making his way in a south-easterly direction towards Yorkshire, bringing many troops recruited in Argyll and the Isles.
All that stood between them and a royal prize was a large English force under the command of John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond. John had taken up position on Scawton Moor, between Rievaulx and Byland Abbey. To dislodge him from his strong position on the high ground Bruce used the same tactics that brought victory at the earlier Battle of Pass of Brander. As Moray and Douglas charged uphill a party of Highlanders scaled the cliffs on the English flank and charged downhill into Richmond’s rear. Resistance crumbled and the Battle of Old Byland turned into a rout. Richmond himself was taken prisoner, as were Henri de Sully, Grand Butler of France, Sir Ralph Cobham (‘the best knight in England’) and Sir Thomas Ughtred. Many others were killed in flight. Edward – ‘ever chicken hearted and luckless in war’ – was forced to make a rapid and undignified exit from Rievaulx, fleeing in such haste that his personal belongings were left behind.
* 1586 Trial of Mary I, Queen of Scots.
Mary I, Queen of Scots
On August 11, 1586, after being implicated in the Babington Plot* Mary was arrested while out riding and taken to Tixall. In a successful attempt to entrap her, Walsingham had deliberately arranged for Mary’s letters to be smuggled out of Chartley. Mary was misled into thinking her letters were secure, while in reality they were deciphered and read by Walsingham. From these letters it was clear that Mary had sanctioned the attempted assassination of Elizabeth.
She was moved to Fotheringhay Castle in a four-day journey ending on September 25, and in October was put on trial for treason under the Act for the Queen’s Safety before a court of 36 noblemen, including Cecil, Shrewsbury, and Walsingham. Spirited in her defence, Mary denied the charges. She told her triers, “Look to your consciences and remember that the theatre of the whole world is wider than the kingdom of England”. She protested that she had been denied the opportunity to review the evidence, that her papers had been removed from her, that she was denied access to legal counsel and that as a foreign anointed queen she had never been an English subject and thus could not be convicted of treason.
Mary was convicted on October 25 and sentenced to death with only one commissioner, Lord Zouche, expressing any form of dissent. Nevertheless, Elizabeth hesitated to order her execution, even in the face of pressure from the English Parliament to carry out the sentence. She was concerned that the killing of a queen set a discreditable precedent and was fearful of the consequences especially if, in retaliation, Mary’s son, James VI, formed an alliance with the Catholic powers and invaded England. Elizabeth asked Paulet, Mary’s final custodian, if he would contrive a clandestine way to “shorten the life” of Mary, which he refused to do on the grounds that he would not make “a shipwreck of my conscience, or leave so great a blot on my poor posterity”.
On February 1, 1587, Elizabeth signed the death warrant, and entrusted it to William Davison, a privy councillor. On February 3, ten members of the Privy Council of England, having been summoned by Cecil without Elizabeth’s knowledge, decided to carry out the sentence at once.
* The Babington Plot was a plan in 1586 to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I, a Protestant, and put Mary, Queen of Scots, her Roman Catholic cousin, on the English throne. It led to the Queen of Scots’ execution, a result of a letter sent by Mary (who had been imprisoned for 19 years since 1568 in England at the behest of Elizabeth) in which she consented to the assassination of Elizabeth.
The long-term goal of the plot was the invasion of England by the Spanish forces of King Felipe II and the Catholic League in France, leading to the restoration of the old religion. The plot was discovered by Elizabeth’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsinghamand used to entrap Mary for the purpose of removing her as a claimant to the English throne.