Today’s post is a very special one, as Just History Posts turns one year old today! I don’t know where the time has gone, and certainly didn’t think I would manage to keep it going for much more than a few months (even if posts have been slightly slacking over summer). So, if you’ve ever read a post, left a like or comment, followed me on twitter, reblogged, or engaged in any other way, then thank you very much! To celebrate one year of sharing interesting pieces of history, I thought I would do a top 10 look-back on the 10 most popular posts you have all enjoyed reading over this past year. Enjoy!
10: The Spanish Armada of 1588
In 1588, King Philip II of Spain sent a huge naval force towards England in what was supposed to be a huge-scale invasion. Having had his proposal to the English Elizabeth I rejected, his troops in the Netherlands harassed by her support of the Dutch, and the Catholic monarch of Scotland, Mary, executed on her orders, Philip felt obliged to remove this heretical Protestant monarch. Sending a force of 130 ships, 55,000 men and 3,000 guns towards England, victory seemed certain. However a series of unfortunate events, blunders, and terrible weather meant the initiative ended in disaster, with just 67 ships and 10,000 men returning. Read more about what happened here.
9: What happened after 1066? The Harrying of the North
Many people know of the events of 1066 that shaped English history, where the Norman William the Conqueror was victorious over his other rival claimants to the throne. But many do not realise how tedious his grasp on the country was for many years of his reign, particularly in the early ones, and one of the biggest ways he crushed resistance, particularly in the north of England, was the Harrying of the North. During the winter of 1069-70, after a significant rebellion, William raided the north, destroying supplies and, crucially, food, devastating the land. Buildings were burnt, livestock slaughtered, people dragged from their homes. Perhaps as much as 75% of the northern population either died or fled – although many historians have questioned how much of this was down to William’s own doing. Read post here.
8: Boudica, Queen of the Iceni
One of the most famous early rulers in England was Queen Boudica, who led the Celtic tribe of the Iceni. Whilst the Romans were attempting to conquer Britain, the locals were engaged in varying levels of co-operation, with the Iceni living in relative peace with the foreigners. After King Prasutagus died in 60 AD, his wife (Boudica) and daughters were flogged and probably raped by the Romans as a way to bring the tribe to heel. Their plan backfired; indignant at her treatment, Boudica gathered up her tribesmen and those of neighbouring tribes and led a huge rebellion against the occupiers. Numerous Roman towns were burnt to the ground, with Roman citizens slaughtered. Ultimately Boudica’s forces were defeated by the Romans, but it was said that Boudica’s rebellion almost made the Emperor Nero abandon attempts to conquer Britain altogether. Read post here.
7: Mythical Creatures: Medieval Mermaids
One creature that has captured public imagination for thousands of years is the mermaid. Appearing as early as 1000 BC, the core of the legend of the mermaid has not changed too much across time. Usually half female, half fish (although male mermaids are still referred to), mermaids are usually beautiful temptresses who lure innocent men to their watery graves. Used variously as representations of goddesses, examples of the vices of women, omens of disaster, souls of dead women, or helpful bringers of good fortune, the mermaid has adapted over time to fit whoever was telling the story. One thing that is for sure is that our fascination with the idea of mermaids has survived the test of time. Read post here.
6: Stand and Deliver, Your Money or Your Life: Female Highwaymen of the Seventeenth Century
Many have had their imagination held captive with the idea of the highwaymen who roamed the countryside in the seventeenth century, and they have been somewhat romanticised in recent years as handsome, daring men who steal from the rich and woo beautiful women. Many people are not as aware, however, that women were also involved in the highway robber profession, and some have taken on their own romantic legends. Learn more about their stories here.
5: The Anarchy: England’s Medieval Civil War
Whilst other English Civil Wars such as the Wars of the Roses or the self-titled one of the seventeenth century that saw the temporary removal of the monarchy are well-known, the Anarchy has not always received as much publicity. However, it nearly saw the first crowned female English monarch post-conquest 400 years before the Tudor women took to the throne. After Henry I died, leaving his sole heir Matilda, Matilda was beaten to the throne by her cousin, Stephen. What ensued was nearly 20 years of civil war between the two sides that almost destroyed the country, but ended with the beginning of Plantagenet rule that would last until the death of Richard III over 300 years later. Read post here.
4: How Medieval Medicine is Helping us Today
People often proclaim that they would not like to live in the medieval period because of the terrible healthcare. With worries like the plague, it is no wonder. It is well known that people in the medieval period had some interesting ideas about cures, from munching on rat brains to bleeding yourself dry, their medicine can certainly sometimes feel completely alien to us today. However, many methods used in the medieval period still are found in modern medicine, and secrets of past concoctions may help us with anti-biotic-resistant superbugs of today. Read post here.
3: Eleanor Cobham, Royal Witch?
It is nice on the one-year birthday to see my first blog post so high up the list of most read. Eleanor Cobham lived in the fifteenth century and married the Duke of Gloucester, who was uncle to Henry VI and for a time heir to the throne of England. However, Eleanor and Gloucester were to suffer a great fall in the middle of the century when Eleanor was accused of practicing witchcraft to murder the King in order to make herself Queen. It was one of the biggest scandals of the century, and others supposedly involved in the conspiracy were executed for treason. However, Eleanor may not have been as guilty as she seemed. Read more in the post here.
2: Reactions to Suicide in Medieval Europe
In the UK, suicide was only decriminalised in 1961. Suicide was considered such a heinous crime that up until then anyone who attempted it and failed could be imprisoned. But what attitudes towards suicide did people living in a deeply Christian medieval Europe hold, and were punishments as harsh then as it was until fairly recently? Was there any compassion for those who may attempt (or succeed) and their families, and did people understand what may lead a person to want to end it all? Read the post here.
1: Queen Joan of Navarre’s Confinement as a Witch
Stemming from my Masters Dissertation, the most popular post of the past year has been about another accused English royal from the fifteenth century, Queen Joan of Navarre. The second wife of Henry IV, and step-mother of Henry V, Joan also found herself accused of using witchcraft to procure the death of the King. Being imprisoned for many years by her once-beloved stepson, did Joan ever manage to be redeemed? Find out in the post here.
I hope that you found at least one post of interest in this list, and if you want to explore any more of my posts then you can find them in handy categories on this page. Otherwise, thank you once again for being part of this little anniversary, and I look forwards to another year of sharing history with you all!
Previous Blog Post: Georgian Women’s Hairstyles