The Figure of National Glory: The Repatriation and Funeral of Napoleon

Following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815, he would remain in exile on the remote island of St Helena until his death in 1821. His death created discussion about what to do with the body. It was chosen that he would be buried in a low-key grave on the island, rather than sending the remains back to France to avoid further fuelling the rise in Napoleon nostalgia that had started to occur. This expressly went against Napoleon’s own wished to be returned back to France and other Frenchmen who had given their opinion along the same lines.

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Nicolas-Eustache Maurin, The opening of Napoleon’s casket on St. Helena in October 1840

Whilst Napoleon’s a controversial figure in history, I have always been intrigued as a regular visitor to Paris, how monuments and cultural aspects related to him. Hazareesingh suggests that his symbolic significance for France, especially through commemorations and monuments is more important than his well-known controversy suggests.[1] Whilst looking back on my two visits to see his current tomb at Les Invalids, this thought is less abstract as I vividly remember the last time I went 2 years ago. Whilst paying for tickets and walking around the museum, which is the national army museum of France, I could tell that some of the staff were confused about why an English family would wish to see French army related things, most notably Napoleon’s tomb. As my dad has always had a military interest in history and I have written many essays on him, we wanted to go see it again as we hadn’t seen it since our first visit to the city in 2007.

Following the death of the great military figure, his end of life transformed him into a ‘tragic hero’ and pamphlets soon began to show themes of the glorification and nostalgia towards the Bonapartist era.[2] The Napoleon legend this created was originally started with Napoleon himself, who viewed himself as the political saviour who was forced to live on St Helena.[3] This idea gained much credit following the publishing of Emmanuel de Las Cases’ memoirs of Napoleon, which told the story of the first 18 months Napoleon lived on Helena and the humiliation this brought to a man who was “compellingly and often pathetically human”.[4] This opinion was bolstered by veterans returning from the Napoleonic Wars, who struggled to adjust to civilian life, adopted a nostalgic view on their past lives, quickly featuring in literature.[5]

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Emile J. H. Vernet, Napoleon Leaving his Tomb (c. 1860)

It is in this context that Napoleon’s repatriation began to take flight. However, with a constitutional monarchy in place after the topple of the First Empire, it was only a small minority that wished for Napoleon to be returned to France. With a growing friendship with Britain, it was unlikely for the government to wish for a great spectacle involving returning the returns of Britain’s great prisoner. However, in 1840 with King Louis-Phillipe’s decision to allow the repatriation of Napoleon’s remains came as he could no longer ignore the increasing demand and popularity of thought on the Bonapartist era.

In doing so, the idea of repatriation transitioned from an individual and minority prerogative to one that had state indorsement.[6] Even the officialness of this scheme posed problems of exactly how to create Napoleon’s image of an inclusive figure. It was problematic as to how to show him in a way which wouldn’t encourage an anti-monarchist fever. With these problems taken into consideration, his posthumous legacy and memory became one of social mobility, “adventure, daring and action”, things that epitomised ideals set up during the Revolution and that continued under the newer constitutional monarchy.[7]

The funeral procession that flowed through Paris was massive spectacle, acceptable for a man who was to be represented as a French collective figure. It has been described as something that “belonged more to the poetic realm of legend”.[8] Really the funeral, despite being done with great flamboyance which Napoleon could have only dreamed of, was really done for undercurrent political reasons. The decision for his final resting place at Les Invalids was done so that he could rest in a politically neutral space and as it was the home of Napoleonic veterans, it appeased those who originally wished for a nostalgic repatriation.[9] This act showed Napoleon as something above politics and reflected the nineteenth century idea subtle that national unity was vital to carrying on the Revolution’s aims, again indicating Napoleon was being used as a symbol of this on both sides of the political spectrum.[10]

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Jacques Guiaud, Napoleon’s funeral carriage crossing the Place de la Concorde

The repatriation of the remains wasn’t the end. There was still a tomb and the alterations to the church at Les Invalids to complete. These took much longer than anticipated following the end of the constitutional monarch and the accession of Napoleon III and his choice to create the Second Empire. Due to this political upheaval, it was actually during Napoleon III’s reign was this finally finished. It became a priority as Napoleon III, nephew to his namesake, legitimised his rule as the heir to Bonapartism and guardian of the Napoleonic tradition.[11] The main way this as done was by commemorating the First Empire through culture, especially the Arc de Triumphe, the finishing of the Napoleon’s final resting place and making his birthday a national holiday.[12]

 

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Napoleon’s tomb in Les Invalids (author’s own photograph)

Whatever your personal thoughts on Napoleon, the events that surrounded his repatriation were a major international effort in a time when repatriation wasn’t a common thing. It has since been a vital moment in defining French national identity. Napoleon was used to reinforce ideas of French national identity relating to militarism at a time when it is believed to be in crisis. He is a symbol of French national prestige which as Nicholson suggests, is an emotive response to “military capacity” and “magnificent cultural achievements”.[13] Napoleon as a nation builder aimed to establish a French identity that would create unity within France, whilst using it to create difference from other countries.[14] This identity was important in an era built upon war and to make the citizen soldier feel loyalty to France in a way where it would be worth the courage and self-sacrifice.[15] As a symbol of the ‘official’ memory of France and “of the nation’s past grandeur” he could be seen as an “inspiration to both the right and the left”.[16]

[1] Hazareesingh, S., ‘Napoleonic Memory in Nineteenth-Century France: the Making of a Liberal Legend’, MLN, 120.4 (2005), pp. 748-749.

[2] Hazareesingh, S., ‘Napoleonic Memory in Nineteenth-Century France’, pp. 756-757.

[3] McLynn, F., Napoleon: a Biography (London: Pimlico, 1998), p. 664.

[4] Las Cases, Le Memorial de Sainte-Helene cited in Hazareesingh, S., ‘Napoleonic Memory in Nineteenth-Century France’, pp. 757-758.

[5] McMillan, J. F., Napoleon III (Harlow: Longman, 1991), p. 19; Tombs, R., France, 1814-1914 (Harlow: Longman, 1996), p. 39.

[6] Hazareesingh, S., ‘Napoleonic Memory in Nineteenth-Century France’, p. 763.

[7] Lyons. M., Napoleon Bonaparte and the Legacy of the French Revolution (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1994), pp. 299-300.

[8] Avener Ben-Amos, Funerals, Politics and Memory in Modern France, 1789-1996 cited in Hazareesingh, S., ‘Napoleonic Memory in Nineteenth-Century France’, p. 763.

[9] J. Tulard, ‘Le Retour des Cendres’ in P. Nora (ed), Les Lieux de Memoire, Vol 2 (1986) cited in Lyons. M., Napoleon Bonaparte and the Legacy of the French Revolution, p. 300.

[10] Tombs, R., France, 1814-1914, p. 302.

[11] Tombs, R., France, 1814-1914, p. 82; Price, R., The French Second Empire: An Anatomy of Political Power (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 44.

[12] Tombs, R., France, 1814-1914, p. 40; McMillan, J. F., Napoleon III, p. 61.

[13] H. Nicholson, The Meaning of Prestige (1937) cited in Wood, S., ‘Nations, National Identity and Prestige’, p. 101.

[14] Tombs, R., France, 1814-1914, p. 83.

[15] Baycroft, T., Inventing the Nation: France, pp. 111 and 121.

[16] McLynn, F., Napoleon: a Biography, p. 667; Hazareesingh, S., ‘Napoleonic Memory in Nineteenth-Century France’, p. 762.

Henry Frederick Stuart: the Lost Prince

When James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603, he came with a royal family, something that England hadn’t known for many generations. This included Henry, the oldest son, who would unfortunately die aged eighteen in 1612. There hadn’t been a male heir to the throne since Henry VIII’s son, Edward, but he became king at a young age and was never officially invested as Prince of Wales. The last prince to be invested with this title was Prince Arthur, back in 1504. What exactly would the new role as heir to the recently connected Scottish and English throne mean? Upon his progress to England, James wrote to Henry what type of character he would need for this, suggesting that it shouldn’t “make you proude or insolent” and to ensure “kyndnes but in honorable sort”.[1] Other than this guidance, it would be up to Henry to shape what it would mean to be the heir. Of course, what no one knew, was just how short lived the poor prince’s life would eventually be. It was this that would define his life in the psyche of the nation at the time, but first he would prove himself to shine his light in a way that would show he would have been a very capable king.

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Robert Peake the Elder, Portrait of Prince Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, Private Collection / Photo © Philip Mould Ltd, London / Bridgeman Images

Henry would prove himself to be a well-rounded renaissance prince, who was equally interested in the arts, science, travel and military activities.[2] In this respect he was seen as everything James wasn’t, especially in his interest in foreign wars and the wish to assert English authority abroad, much to the frustration of seeing friends and other protestant nations across Europe fight for their religion.[3] The friendship he struck up with Henri IV of France, who came from a Huguenot background, made this more acute. Upon Henri’s assassination in 1610 made Henry appear to be the next hope for Protestant Europe, so “that he might marshal a decisive protestant victory”.[4] As this was in direct opposition to James’ peaceful style of monarchy, Henry’s circle attracted many protestants, as well as those of an artistic background, who felt alienated in James’ court, which was known for its direct style of order.[5]

It was this opposition that postponed Henry’s investiture. It was only with Henry’s supporters pushing for an official investiture ceremony, hoping that once confirmed as Prince of Wales, he would be allowed military roles.[6] When the celebrations finally came, they lasted over several days and included many masques and a river pageant, all of which surrounded the main place of power at Whitehall. There was disagreement as to whether a street or river pageant would be best. As the investiture was not long after Henri IV’s assassination, it was decided a river pageant from Richmond to Whitehall would be best. Another reason for the celebrations to be placed in Whitehall was because the majority of the money financing it came from the City of London.[7] Despite these reasons, there were some contemporaries who thought a street procession wasn’t chosen as James was jealous of the Prince’s popularity with the people, and this would have been a more open way of showing this popularity, rather than a river pageant.[8] Whatever the motives behind it, it was an opportunity to show a collective love for Henry, especially with the City funding it, as this showed loyalty towards a future sovereign.[9]

The whole point of these few days of celebrations was to represent the court culture, most notably that of masques, in a way that would show adoration of Henry.[10] These masques, as with any masques at the time, were a way of expressing royal power.[11] In the context of Henry’s investiture, this would have related to allegories of the power in royal succession and the celebration of him becoming Prince of Wales. The allegorical nature of masques was often meant to symbolise current political rhetoric, but on the day of the masque for the investiture, the allegory alluded to the celebrations themselves.[12] Queen Anne, Princess Elizabeth and Lady Arbella Stuart acted as the personification of rivers, including the River Thames, thus alluding to the previous river pageant during the celebrations.[13]

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Isaac Oliver (after), Henry, Prince of Wales, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, UK / Bridgeman Images

The pageants and ceremony that followed Henry in life would also follow him in death. Between his death and the funeral, life in Henry’s chambers carried on almost as normal, as washbasins and his favourite meals were still delivered.[14] Despite this sense of normality, the grief of the royal family was evident in the fact that it was forbidden to mention Henry’s name in the company of King James and Queen Anne.[15] The sudden death of their eldest son created issues as to how to best continue with Prince Charles as the next heir. James was advised to not simply swap Henry for Charles, so most of Henry’s belongings were quickly sold, other than some of his art collection.[16] This part of Henry’s legacy would create major issues in the lead up to the English Civil War, as many of those who had been in Henry’s circle believed that Charles had betrayed what “they and their prince stood for”.[17]

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The arms of Henry Prince of Wales (1594-1612), possibly early 17th century, Salisbury Museum / Bridgeman Images

In preparation for the funeral, an effigy was created that was made to look as realistic as possible. It was even dressed in some of Henry’s finest clothes to ensure it still looked alive.[18] It was thought that it would help the nation to grieve and showed the status others had placed upon him as effigies were usually reserved for monarchs.[19] The immense grief the nation felt was likened to that of the death of the Black Prince 300 years before, especially as the untimely death went against his heroic and chivalric nature.[20] With the nation in mourning, a large state funeral full of magnificence was required. The total cost for it would total around £16,000, even more than the cost of celebrations for Princess Elizabeth’s wedding.[21]

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Funeral effigy of Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales, Westminster Abbey

Despite the success of the funeral and the love for Henry it fuelled in the nation, the Prince appears to have been lost to the history books and in the current understanding of the Stuart era. There are many reasons for this, mainly because in some respects, the suppression of remembering his life by James following the funeral, meant he was forgotten, but also the events of the Civil War decades later would overshadow it. The lack of physical points of remembrance have also made it hard. Due to the cost of the funeral, ideas for a permanent tomb were put on hold, only to be forgotten about.[22] This left only the effigy as a focus point for people. However, visitors who came to see it often took relics from it, leaving it now completely unrecognisable.[23] Now it is only an indistinguishable pile of wood, hiding its royal image and the hope of a better monarch that were once had in Henry whilst he was alive.

[1] James writing to Henry (1603), cited in Gardener, E. E., ‘A British Hunting Portrait’, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 3.5 (1945), p. 113.

[2] Gardener, E. E., ‘A British Hunting Portrait’, p. 114.

[3] Streete, A., ‘Elegy, Prophecy, and Politics: Literary Responses to the Death of Prince Henry Stuart, 1612-1614’, Renaissance Studies, 31.1 (2017), pp. 87-88.

[4] David Norbrook, Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance, 2nd Edition, cited in Streete, A., ‘Elegy, Prophecy, and Politics: Literary Responses to the Death of Prince Henry Stuart, p. 87; Woodward, J., The Theatre of Death: The Ritual Management of Royal Funerals in Renaissance England, 1570-1625 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1997), p. 154.

[5] Bergeron, D. M., ‘Creating Entertainments for Prince Henry’s Creation (1610)’, Comparative Drama, 42.4 (2008), p. 434.

[6] Bergeron, D. M., ‘Creating Entertainments for Prince Henry’s Creation (1610)’, p. 434.

[7] Bergeron, D. M., ‘Creating Entertainments for Prince Henry’s Creation (1610)’, p. 435.

[8] Bergeron, D. M., ‘Creating Entertainments for Prince Henry’s Creation (1610)’, p. 435.

[9] Bergeron, D. M., ‘Creating Entertainments for Prince Henry’s Creation (1610)’, p. 439 and 441.

[10] Bergeron, D. M., ‘Creating Entertainments for Prince Henry’s Creation (1610)’, p. 446.

[11] S. Orgel, The Illusion of Power cited in Bergeron, D. M., ‘Court Masques about Stuart London’, Studies in Philology, 113.4 (2016), p. 822.

[12] Bergeron, D. M., ‘Court Masques about Stuart London’, p. 832; Marcus, L. S., ‘”Present Occasions” and the Shaping of Ben Jonson’s Masques’, ELH, 45.2 (1978), p. 206.

[13] Bergeron, D. M., ‘Creating Entertainments for Prince Henry’s Creation (1610)’, p. 444.

[14] Fraser, S., The Prince Who Would Be King: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart (London: William Collins, 2017), p. 255.

[15] Fraser, S., The Prince Who Would Be King: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart, p. 254.

[16] Fraser, S., The Prince Who Would Be King: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart, p. 256.

[17] Fraser, S., The Prince Who Would Be King: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart, p. 265.

[18] Fraser, S., The Prince Who Would Be King: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart, p. 260.

[19] Woodward, J., The Theatre of Death, p. 161.

[20] Woodward, J., The Theatre of Death, p. 155.

[21] Woodward, J., The Theatre of Death, p. 148.

[22] Woodward, J., The Theatre of Death, p. 162.

[23] Fraser, S., The Prince Who Would Be King: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart, p. 266.

The Construction of the Male Dominated Narrative of Pocahontas

I have always had an interest in the lives and culture of Native Americans. In the stories that have been told about the violent struggles between settlers and the Native Americans, I have always found my sympathies lay with the Native Americans. As a very young child, I must admit this probably stemmed from Disney’s Pocahontas, but my parents always taught me, when I was old enough to understand, the hardships and discrimination the Native American nations were forced to endure, most notable the Trail of Tears and the forced movement away from their ancestral land to reservations on the other side of America.

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Pocahontas and Thomas Rolfe, Lebrecht History / Bridgeman Images

As a bit of a whim recently, I decided to investigate where this anti-Native American sentiment came from. I guess this was probably from my knowledge that their culture is focused around hospitality and the greater good of the tribe. Did the early settlers experience this side of the Native American culture and how did things manage to turn violent? These were the questions I wanted to answer for myself. What became clear is that despite the early settlers portraying the Powhatan nation as pagans and fundamentally different, Pocahontas was regarded, and has continued to be, a large part of the founding story of English settlement in America.[1] Unfortunately this founding myth has been based on what has been written by the white men who encountered her and her people, as Pocahontas left no written record for herself. This has meant that a very Western and male view has been placed upon her.

Pocahontas’ narrative has had two main focuses placed upon it: her friendship and/or possible relationship with John Smith and her eventual conversion and marriage to John Rolfe.[2] These have tried to place her in contexts that could be understood from the contemporary viewpoint that the New World was a female figure, hence the naming of Virginia by Walter Raleigh.[3] From this viewpoint various images were used to symbolise the New World. First, the New World became a female gendered space to suggest that it was just passively waiting to be conquered by male settlers.[4] Secondly, America was later represented by a Native American princess in some form, whether this be an unclothed one, one as the daughter of Britannia or as the embodiment of qualities that would later be attributed to United States sovereignty.[5] With Pocahontas’ role as the first female native the settlers mixed with, it was clear that she easily mixed with these ideas. It has led to the story of her and her relationship with the early settlers to be retold more “than any other American historical incident” during the colonial period.[6]

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Simon de Passe, Captain John Smith, Private Collection, Peter Newark American Pictures / Bridgeman Images

The first misunderstanding about Pocahontas that has been inherited is how she became acquainted with the early settlers. A letter from John Chamberlain to the Hague ambassador during her visit to James I’s court in 1617 suggested that Pocahontas had “ben with the King and graciously used, and both she and her assistant placed at the maske. She is on her return (though sore against her will)”.[7] Chamberlain in his description of Pocahontas made her seem to be at the mercy of others but still able to have her own will.[8] The theme of Pocahontas using her own will derives from the belief that settlers had about her early visits to Jamestown. They believed she had flouted the will of her father in order to meet and know the new Englishmen. However, this was a misunderstanding of how Powhatan society and Pocahontas’ own status within it worked.

Pocahontas was the favourite of Powhatan’s many children. This was because her mother was his love match made before he became the paramount chief of the Tsenacomoca nation. In Powhatan tradition, it was custom for the paramount chief to marry women from each of the tribes he controlled to create unity and relationships between each of them.[9] No woman was forced to marry any man, not even the paramount chief, but it would have meant higher status for the woman and it was only a temporary match until they gave birth.[10] Once they had given birth, they were free to choose whether to stay in the capital Werowocomoco as a wife of the chief, or to return to their village to find a love match.[11] This meant that Pocahontas meant a lot to Powhatan, even more so as her mother died giving birth to her. Due to this bond that subsequently formed between Powhatan and his daughter, it is clear that if Powhatan had believed the English to be a threat, he wouldn’t have let a child, and his favourite child at that, go to Jamestown. Instead, in the Powhatan culture, a child was often placed at the front of a group entering the village of another tribe to show they came in peace.[12] Pocahontas was also still a child and so would have had supervision, as a royal child, she would have also had a large amount of bodyguards as well as Powhatan’s permission to visit the Jamestown settlers.[13] As selfishness and the advancement of personal welfare over others and the greater good of the tribe was seen as one of the worst things a person could do, it would not have been in Pocahontas’ nature to go to Jamestown against her father’s will.[14]

The band of warriors and priests that would have accompanied Pocahontas were showing the English settlers the general sharing of food and hospitality customs that were second nature to their people.[15] This helped the unprepared settlers to survive during the periods of harsh weather and poor health that threatened the entire existence of the settlement. However, it is also due to the status the Powhatans placed on John Smith. Just as the settlers saw Powhatan as a King, the Powhatans saw Smith as the ‘chief’ of the English.[16] The position that the Powhatan’s viewed Smith as having sheds light onto the infamous saving of Smith by Pocahontas.

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Pocahontas saves Captain Smith’s Life (19th century), Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

There has been much debate about whether Pocahontas really did save John Smith from a near death by the hands of her father. What makes the difficult to understand is Pocahontas real motivations behind the act, we only have Smith’s side of the story.[17] The early seventeenth century writings on Jamestown are surprisingly quiet on the matter. Smith himself didn’t even mention the rescue until 1624, seventeen years after the event was supposed to have occurred and ironically after both Pocahontas and Powhatan had died.[18] Among many interpretations that have been put forward, most have been sceptical about its occurrence. It may have been added for political reasons after the 1622 massacre of the settlers by the Powhatans as a response for the increasingly violent treatment towards them, in order to vilify the Powhatans.[19] Another option for it not appearing is that if it did happen, Smith had purposefully emitted it for as long as possible as it ruined his reputation as a military and brave man.[20] Philip Barbour suggests a more logical explanation that runs alongside the contemporary explanation given by the narrative passed down through the Mattaponi people’s oral history. He argues that the rescue did happen but as Smith was not aware of local customs, he misinterpreted the situation. Both the Powhatans and the settlers have been known to misinterpret each other’s cultures in these early interactions as they could only base their knowledge of it on their own assumptions as a comparison to their own culture. Barbour argues that it may have been a ritual re-enacting a fake execution, rather than an actual one, to show that he was accepted by the nation and was seen as a chief in his own right.[21]

Unfortunately, we may never know the exact truth of some of the things that occurred in those early stages of the English colonisation of America. What is known that the early settlers began a narrative that was to be seen as mainstream until fairly recently (in some ways still is). It paved the way for Pocahontas being the embodiment of voluntary cultural connection and assimilation, whilst forgetting that she was in fact a captive between the ‘rescue’ and her marriage to John Rolfe.[22] This narrative became especially prevalent in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when a lot of the legend of Pocahontas started to become invented by various writers.[23] The creation of this narrative coincided with wider circulation of John Smith’s writings, which portrayed her as saviour of Jamestown, and also to create a founding myth to justify the increasingly despicable treatment of Native Americans.[24] Pocahontas’ marriage to John Rolfe was also more prevalent at this time to provide evidence of the supposed harmony and less cultural violence more interracial marriages would have created.[25]

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The marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe in 1613, From The History of Our Country, published 1899 / Bridgeman Images

The only thing that is certain is that without contact with the English, Pocahontas’ life would have carried on much the same as her predecessors. Powhatan’s sister was a village chief in her own right, so Pocahontas probably could have easily followed in her footsteps.[26] She also wouldn’t have died from the Western disease that killed her, of which there is also much speculation. However, whatever the ifs and buts of her life, she has remained one of the key figures of Native American history and I hope will continue to be for centuries to come.

[1] Paul, H., The Myths that Made America (London: Trascript Verlag, 2014), p. 89.

[2] Paul, H., The Myths that Made America, p. 90.

[3] Paul, H., The Myths that Made America, pp. 91-92.

[4] S. Schulting, Wilde Frauen, Fremde Welten: Kolonisierungsgeschichten aus Amerika cited in Paul, H., The Myths that Made America, p. 92.

[5] E. McClung Fleming, ‘The American Image as Indian Princess, 1765-1783’, Winterthur Portfolio, 2 (1965) cited in Paul, H., The Myths that Made America, p. 93.

[6] Tilton, R. S., Pocahontas: The Evolution of an American Narrative (Cambridge: Press Syndicate, 1994), p. 1.

[7] John Chamberlain, The Letters of John Chamberlain, ed. Norman Egbert Chirelstien cited in Robertson, K., ‘Pocahontas at the Masque’, Signs, 21.3 (1996), p. 552.

[8] Robertson, K., ‘Pocahontas at the Masque’, p. 552.

[9] Custalow, L. and Daniel, A. L., The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History (Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing, 2007), p. 5.

[10] Custalow, L. and Daniel, A. L., The True Story of Pocahontas, pp. 5-6.

[11] Custalow, L. and Daniel, A. L., The True Story of Pocahontas, p. 6.

[12] Custalow, L. and Daniel, A. L., The True Story of Pocahontas, p. 26.

[13] Custalow, L. and Daniel, A. L., The True Story of Pocahontas, p. 25.

[14] Custalow, L. and Daniel, A. L., The True Story of Pocahontas, p.

[15] Custalow, L. and Daniel, A. L., The True Story of Pocahontas, p. 23.

[16] Custalow, L. and Daniel, A. L., The True Story of Pocahontas, p. 24.

[17] Paul, H., The Myths that Made America, p. 95.

[18] Paul, H., The Myths that Made America, p. 96.

[19] Paul, H., The Myths that Made America, p. 90.

[20] G. Mackenthun, Metaphors of Dispossession: American Beginnings and the Translation of Empire, 1492-1637 cited in Paul, H., The Myths that Made America, p. 96.

[21] Philip Barbour, Pocahontas and Her World cited in Paul, H., The Myths that Made America, p. 90.

[22] Paul, H., The Myths that Made America, p. 102.

[23] Paul, H., The Myths that Made America, p. 102; Tilton, R. S., Pocahontas: The Evolution of an American Narrative, p. 10.

[24] Paul, H., The Myths that Made America, p. 103; Tilton, R. S., Pocahontas: The Evolution of an American Narrative, p. 11.

[25] Tilton, R. S., Pocahontas: The Evolution of an American Narrative, p. 12.

[26] Tremblay, G., ‘Reflecting on Pocahontas’, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 23.3, p. 121.

Blackbeard: the Epitome of Piracy

Whenever pirates are mentioned, the first person to come to mind is usually Blackbeard. He was notorious for his use of violence and tyranny, making him the scourge of the Caribbean. The modern idea of historical pirates is usually linked to Blackbeard’s style of piracy. Whilst writing my undergraduate dissertation on pirates and highwaymen, I found that there were many pirates, particularly Captain Bartholomew Roberts, the creator of the pirate code, who didn’t match up to this image we have today.[1] Still, this image was largely created by Blackbeard and the legends that surround him. His image and dramatic death became the personification of piracy, inspired by many eighteenth and nineteenth century plays and melodramas written about him.[2] The idea of Blackbeard’s exploits being shown to an eager and willing audience helped spread this image in a way that ensured it is still very much remembered today.

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Blackbeard the Pirate (18th century), Peter Newark Pictures / Bridgeman Images

The demonic image that we have of Blackbeard was fuelled by Blackbeard himself. This was purposefully done by matches placed in his hair and beard and his brutal treatment of fellow shipmates. All this was done to give the appearance of a beast from hell.[3] The reputation this created ensured that he gained power from encouraged tales about him to exacerbate his brutal nature.[4] One of these shipmates was Israel Hands, who was shot in the knee, with the hope it would encourage further rumours of brutal treatment.[5]

His reputation for a brutal form of piracy first became noticed by a wider public when his ship besieged Charleston in South Carolina. The oddest thing about this siege was that it was done to get medicines for the crew.[6] It’s not known exactly what disease the medicines were needed for but following the finding of the Queen Anne’s Revenge in 1996, large traces of mercury were found.[7] From this, it has since been believed that the most likely reason for the medicines was for the mercury, suggesting that many on board were suffering from sexually transmitted diseases, which were usually treated with mercury.[8]

Blackbeard was believed to have been a mass bigamist who had married fourteen wives. His last wife, Mary Ormond, was sixteen years old when she married him and afterwards was prostituted out by Blackbeard.[9] This shows a different culture than would have been acceptable in Blackbeard’s native England as bigamy and prostitution was considered illegal but such behaviour was deemed acceptable in the pirate community. However, such transgressive behaviour was usually exaggerated by legitimate sea captains who were the only contemporaries to comment on piracy in order to promote their own careers.[10] This ‘othering’ reaction was certainly something that was part of Blackbeard’s motives behind the behaviour.

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Thomas Nicholls, Captain Teach, commonly called Blackbeard (c.1734), Private Collection / Bridgeman Images

The most famous part of Blackbeard’s story is without a doubt his death. It was this that sealed his fate as the most infamous pirate to have sailed the seas of the Caribbean. Johnson describes his final battle as Blackbeard’s last defiant act, as it took 25 shots and cutlass wounds to kill him after Captain Maynard’s crew besieged the Queen Anne’s Revenge.[11] His headless body was thrown overboard and legends circulated that his headless body swam around the ship in defiance of his own death.[12] This would be the last act to reinforce Blackbeard’s devil image, even though it was from beyond the grave. Once dead, Maynard displayed Blackbeard’s head as a war trophy on the front of his ship.[13] This followed the tradition of displaying the body of hanged pirates on waterfronts to act as a deterrent to other would be pirates by indicating that the relevant authorities had command on such crimes.[14]

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Blackbeard’s Last Fight (19th century), Peter Newark Historical Pictures / Bridgeman Images

Pirates were able to romanticise themselves by a lack of ethical accountability and used this in order to establish a common “national-cultural identity”.[15] In the case of Blackbeard, this was done by controlling his own portrayal of individual identity, which in turn influenced the collective memory of what it meant to be pirate. The idea of pirates and their lack of accountability finally changed with the development of official naval legality in Nassau and warships had gained better weapon technology, increasing the number of coordinated campaigns against pirates.[16] Blackbeard was the beginning of the end for the pirates who plagued the seas around the Caribbean and so is continually remembered for being the image by which all pirates are remembered. His legacy is that he has influenced many fictional pirates after him, including Long John Silver and Captain Flint, as well as the Pirates of the Caribbean series, especially as Blackbeard himself makes an appearance.

[1] Bowling, T., Pirates and Privateers (Harpenden: Pocket Essentials, 2008), p. 148.

[2] Cordingly, D., Spanish Gold: Captain Woodes Rogers & the True Story of the Pirates of the Caribbean (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), p. 167.

[3] Johnson, C., A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, Reprint (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), p. 60.

[4] Parry, D., Blackbeard: The Real Pirate of the Caribbean (London: National Maritime Museum Publishing, 2006), p. 10.

[5] Parry, D., Blackbeard, p. 69 and 110.

[6] Cordingly, D., Spanish Gold, p. 169.

[7] Cordingly, D., Spanish Gold, p. 169.

[8] Cordingly, D., Spanish Gold, p. 169.

[9] Johnson, C., A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, p. 50; Parry, D., Blackbeard, pp. 99 and 102.

[10] George Woodbury, The Great Days of Piracy in the West Indies (1951) cited in Lee. R. E., Blackbeard the Pirate, p. 22

[11] Johnson, C., A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, p. 57.

[12] Johnson, C., A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, cited in Lee. R. E., Blackbeard the Pirate, p. 124

[13] Cordingly, D., Spanish Gold, p. 177.

[14] Cordingly, D., Spanish Gold, pp. 161- 162; Parry, D., Blackbeard, pp. 163-164

[15]Mackie, E., Rakes, Highwaymen, and Pirates: The Making of the Modern Gentleman in the Eighteenth Century (Baltimore, USA: John Hopkins University Press, 2009), pp. 12-13.

[16] Cordingly, D., Spanish Gold, p. 161; Parry, D., Blackbeard, p. 161 and 164.

The Diamond Necklace Affair: the Necklace that Made Marie Antoinette a Slave to her Fate.

The Diamond Necklace Affair is one of those strange instances in history where to this day we don’t know the full ins and outs, especially the motives behind it. All that is really known is that Cardinal Rohan was duped by Jeanne de la Motte into believing that Marie Antoinette wished to buy the most expensive necklace in history and that he had been chosen to be the broker for the transaction. However, Rohan has been out of favour with the queen since his time as ambassador to Austria produced some bad relations between the cardinal and Antoinette’s mother, Maria Theresa. He was so determined to follow his dreams of being the next Cardinal Richelieu or Mazarin that he went through with the scheme. Unfortunately, the situation involving the 2800 carat necklace that was worth 1.6 million livre would eventually see him on trial in 1785, 3 years after his introduction to La Motte, for stealing the necklace by invoking the name of Marie Antoinette to get it.[1]

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‘The Diamond Necklace involved in the Affair of the ‘Collier de la Reine’’, c.1785, Private Collection / Archives Charmet / Bridgeman Images

The circumstances around why Rohan chose to believe the situation Jeanne had set up are as unknown as the motives she had to wanting to dupe the Cardinal. All that can be deduced from it is that upon their meeting, Rohan felt sorry for Jeanne’s lack of money considering her illegitimate family connections to the previous Valois royal family.[2] Perhaps, as Beckman suggests, considering Jeanne’s poor upbringing and toxic marriage to Nicolas de la Motte, which resulted in the pair spending beyond their means, she saw this as an opportunity to improve herself and took advantage of Rohan’s desire to get royal favour.[3] Whatever the motivations and feelings that created what would become known as the Diamond Necklace Affair, it happened in a time of be the spark that created the French Revolution less than 4 years later.

A correspondence was set up with Jeanne as the middle person between Marie Antoinette and Rohan. These letters were of course not from the real Marie Antoinette but were faked by an associate of the La Mottes, a man called Villette.[4] Throughout this time, Jeanne had thoroughly convinced the Cardinal of her confidence with the Queen by telling stories of meetings that they had. This relationship appeared to be confirmed in Rohan’s mind when a meeting with the Queen was arranged by Jeanne. The meeting was held in the gardens of Versailles at night, so it was hard to make out who the person he met was, but if he had any doubts, he never revealed them and continued to believe the charade that was placed before him. In fact, the woman he had really met was a prostitute by the name of Nicole le Guay, who had been employed by the La Mottes because of her perceived likeness to Marie Antoinette, especially when dressed in similar clothes.[5] Nicole had also been duped by the Jeanne, by being told she was helping the Queen out with a problem she was having with someone.[6]

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Affair of the Diamond Necklace: the meeting of Cardinal de Rohan with a woman whom he believed to be the Queen but in fact was a prostitute, Nicole Leguay (19th century), Private collection /The Holbarn Archive / Bridgeman Images

Demands were placed upon Rohan to broker a deal with the jewellers Bassange and Boehmer for the Queen, despite the fact the necklace in question had been rejected twice by the real Marie Antoinette.[7] It is probably this previous connection with the necklace that made the situation seem so plausible, as well as the Queen’s well known spending habits for her royal wardrobe. However, it is from this point that the Affair would be on a slippery slope downwards for all involved.

The jewellers were threatened with bankruptcy if they didn’t sell the necklace. With it’s 647 diamonds, it was known as a collier d’esclavage, a necklace of slavery, due to it being so heavy that it had to have a back attached to it to stop the heaviness toppling the wearer over.[8] In fact, it was a rather suitable name as it would metaphorically enslave all those who were involved with it. The jewellers would find their reputation hampered by its creation for two reasons. The first being that it was so large and expensive that it threatened their very livelihood and business if left unsold to the royals of Europe. The second being that it would eventually lead to the downfall of Marie Antoinette, their best customer.

The agreement reached through Rohan was that the necklace would be paid in instalments by a contract explaining the involvement of ‘Marie Antoinette of France’.[9] Suspicious were raised when the first instalment was left unpaid. With time and money at stake, the jewellers gained an audience with the Queen, delicately asking about the situation but the situation was a first misunderstood, for she believed they were still trying to sell her the necklace.[10] Of course the truth finally came out that Rohan was involved in a transaction involving the necklace and the Queen’s name. This led to his arrest and that from the start of the investigation in August 1785, Rohan realised the true deceiving nature of Jeanne. He always said it was her who was the true mastermind in what had happened.[11]

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Cardinal de Rohan, Private Collection / Archives Charmet / Bridgeman Images

That was true. Upon gaining the necklace, Jeanne and her husband Nicholas broke up the necklace and tried to sell the individual diamonds. Some of these were sold in Paris but this started to raise suspicion as there were a lot of diamonds originating from the same person, that really didn’t match up with the inheritance explanation they offered to potential buyers.[12] Eventually, Nicholas moved to London to sell the rest, where he also struggled to sell them other than to a few potential buyers.[13] Still, Jeanne would protest her innocence to the end, even when Villette admitted to forging letters and her confessor admitted seeing him forge them.[14]

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During the course of the investigations a number of suspects in the case were arrested. These included Rohan, Jeanne, Nicole le Guay, Cagliostro (a mystic who had been linked with Rohan during the time of the Affair) and Villette. The investigations and eventual trial of these individuals created a public space where the Queen’s conduct was being debated as never before but would be for years to come.[15] It helped to transform private gossip and suspicions of Marie Antoinette’s frivolity into the more dangerous rhetoric surrounding political intrigue, corruption and tyranny.[16] Both Cagliostro and Jeanne would later publish stories and memoirs on the Diamond Necklace Affair linking these themes together. Jeanne’s memoirs especially linked Marie Antoinette’s sexual morals to creating political corruption.[17] How ironic that was considering the lack of morals needed to succeed in her criminal activities. Her pleas were unheard though as it was Jeanne who was actually found guilty in the case. Rohan was proved not guilty of invoking the Queen’s name, despite the fact he could have been sentenced with embezzlement.[18]

What happened to those involved after the trial?

  • Jeanne was branded with ‘V’ on each shoulder, meaning voleuse for thief and was imprisoned in the Saltpetriere, a women’s poorhouse and reformatory for prostitutes. She escaped and moved to London to find her husband, who wasn’t bothered about her in the end.[19] Her spending habits still left her in debt and so she wrote her memoirs to gain money, to no avail. In June 1791 she had bailiffs on her door. By barricading herself in her room she jumped from a window to avoid them, leaving her with injuries that would eventually lead to her death on 23rd August 1791.[20]
  • Rohan was exiled from Paris and died quietly aged 68 in 1803 from poor health as a result of his incarceration and treatment in the Bastille during the investigation.[21]
  • Nicholas eventually returned to France after the Revolution and capitalised on the fame of the Affair and his role as the last surviving participant of it.[22] He died of natural causes in October 1831 despite many failed attempts of suicide in the years leading up to his death.[23]
  • Cagliostro was acquitted during the trial but was later banished from France for his slander of the Queen.[24] After spending time in various European countries, especially England, he eventually returned to his homeland of the Italian states, where he was eventually imprisoned by the Inquisition for being a false prophet.[25] It was in the fortress of San Leo that he eventually died of a stroke in 795, brought on by the symptoms of syphilis.[26]
  • Nicole le Guay was forced out of court circles that she was linked to as a prostitute.[27] She died of poor health in 1789.[28] It was believed her health never recovered from having to give birth in the Bastille during the investigation.

The legacy of this as the spark that lit the fires that would lead to the Revolution. It was a benchmark that would mean the beginning of the end for Marie Antoinette’s reputation.[29] From that moment on, the Queen’s every move was seen in a bad light, whether it was innocent or not.[30] The Diamond Necklace Affair would be the start of the debate on governmental corruption and royal frivolity that would be used as justification for the French Revolution. However, at this point things were still largely being blamed on royal advisors being corrupt rather than the King himself. It still provided the background that would in the coming years transform into blaming the royals themselves and their eventual executions.

[1] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair (London: John Murray, 2014), p. 1

[2] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 2.

[3] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 2.

[4] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 211.

[5] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, pp. 84 and 86.

[6] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 85.

[7] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 3; Delalex, H., Meral, A. and Milovanovic, Marie-Antoinette (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2016), p. 136.

[8] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 101.

[9] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 3

[10] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 3

[11] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 147.

[12] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 124.

[13] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 124.

[14] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, pp. 173 and 211.

[15] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 3.

[16] Colwill, E., ‘Just Another “Citoyenne?” Marie-Antoinette on Trial, 1790-1793’, History Workshop, 28 (1989), p. 68; McCalman, I., ‘Mad Lord George and Madame La Motte: Riot and Sexuality in the Genesis of Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France’, Journal of British Studies, 35.3 (1996), p. 363.

[17] McCalman, I., ‘Mad Lord George and Madame La Motte’, p. 363; Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 276.

[18] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 244.

[19] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 273

[20] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, pp. 285 and 287.

[21] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 299.

[22] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, pp. 300-301.

[23] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 301.

[24] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 259.

[25] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, pp. 296-297.

[26] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, pp. 296-297.

[27] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 243.

[28] Beckman, J., How to Ruin a Queen, p. 280.

[29] Saint-Armand, P. and Curtiss Gage, J., ‘Terrorizing Marie Antoinette’, Critical Inquiry, 20.3 (1994), p. 392.

[30] Delalex, H., Meral, A. and Milovanovic, Marie-Antoinette, p. 136.

The Origins of WW1 Remembrance in Britain

With the unprecedented mass horror and death that World War One brought, it became increasingly important to remember the fallen. The problem was how best to do that. The government wished to portray the war as one of victory, whereas the population wished to see it with grief and disaster in mind.[1] Regardless of the conflict surrounding how best to commemorate the sacrifice paid by those who served, the compromise of acknowledging the personal deaths and sacrifice of those who fought was found.[2] It was from then on that the idea of collective remembrance was born. As Winter and Sivan suggests, the remembrance themes that stem from World War One is about gathering pieces of the past and constructing them in places where the public can collectively participate in traditions together.[3] From then on, war would be remembered as a mix of horror and heroism together.[4]

The Great War in modern memory was certainly the first time that soldiers were memorialised and remembered on a large scale. Before WW1 the burial of soldiers was the responsibility of the unit and the recording of them was by either the officers or chaplains.[5] The idea of officially commemorating individuals, rather than just burying them in a mass grave, or if lucky to be identifiable, in an individual grave with a small marker, started with the creation of what would later become known as the Imperial War Graves Commission after a royal charter in 1917.[6] The Red Cross Burial Unit as it was initially called was set up by Fabian Ware to assist in the locating of bodies, marking of graves and creating purposeful military cemeteries that would support large numbers of burials.[7] This work of great importance would allow the unit to gain official recognition from the army, who by 1915 became part of the Graves Registration Commission.[8]

The grave markers used by the Imperial War Graves Commission all purposefully looked similar. Each grave was decorated with a headstone made from Portland stone from Derbyshire (sorry as a Derbyshire lass, had to throw that in).[9] This was to symbolise equality in the heroism of the soldiers’ death, regardless of rank, ethnicity or religion. If the individual could be identified, a symbol of their religion, name, rank, serial number and date of death were carved into the headstone.[10] Where the individual was not known, an inscription was placed on the headstone saying, “known unto God”.[11]

The work started by the Graves Registration Commission was the source for how we today view ‘unknown’ soldiers. The idea of commemorating the missing who had died in service with no known grave was a previously unheard-of practice before the Great War. With the large number of losses and mass conscription, it meant remembering the names of those involved in the conflict, whether missing or not, was of vital importance.[12] As Wilson suggests, the point behind graves and memorials to missing and unknown soldiers is so that sites for those living who cannot commemorate their own dead as there is no known grave, is so that they have somewhere to grieve without a physical grave present.[13]

Memorials and cemeteries during this time became national shrines for mourning and grief.[14] This representation only came out of the First World War due to mass conscription, meaning the whole nation was affected by war, rather than just a select few in previous campaigns who volunteered. As most towns, cities and villages across the nation had had casualties, it increased the need for a place of remembrance in the hometowns of those who were lost.[15] In a pre-WW1 setting without mass conscription, war memorials are an uncommon site. The ones that do exist are usually dedicated to the glory and bravery of such war heroes as Nelson and Wellington.[16] The images placed on them often involve fighting and violence of some kind, showing the glory of victory in wartime.

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Waterloo Place and the Crimean Memorial, Look and Learn / Peter Jackson Collection / Bridgeman Images, 20th Century

It was the Crimean War that started to change the theme of memorials. The Crimean War is the first instance where memorials were dedicated to soldiers other than major generals. A plinth style memorial in Cheltenham is perhaps the first notable instance of this. Carved into it are the names of 27 soldiers and officers from Cheltenham that were killed during the conflict.[17] However, unlike most WW1 examples, the names of the officers and other soldiers are divided onto separate sides of the memorial.

The main memorial in Britain that was a result of the First World War was the Cenotaph in Whitehall. It was built as a temporary wooden structure as a main place for memorialising soldiers during Peace Day Celebrations in July 1919.[18] What was unforeseen was the public outpouring of grief at this place that was purposefully absent of any specific religious or national symbolism. This was so that it could signify an empty tomb and focus thoughts onto unity in remembering the suffering endured.[19] The memorial would become the place to go for those whose loved ones had no known grave and were unable to travel to the Western Front memorials.[20] From that moment, it was obvious that a permanent structure would have to be built in preparation for what would be the first Remembrance Day in November 1919.

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Ken Welsh, Londoners celebrating Peace Day at the end of WWI (1919)

The first Remembrance Day on the 11th November 1919 would set the precedent for what has now been a century of memories and remembrance for those who fought in the First World War. However, how this was to be done was not set in stone until the actual day. The silence we now observe was carried out for the first time on that day.[21] So much so that all of London’s transport was brought to a halt.[22] The central focus of the mourning was in Whitehall around the still temporary Cenotaph. The heartbreak was so obvious that the only sound to cut through the silence was the sound of weeping.[23]

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Programme for the unveiling of the Cenotaph and the burial of the Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey, London, 11 November 1920, Look and Learn/Peter Jackson Collection/Bridgeman Images

The thing I have never forgotten since I first studied this period in my second year at university is the story of a little boy who was there on that day with his widowed mother. During the silence, he asked her about whether his daddy was in the Cenotaph.[24] For me, I think that emotional story humanises the grief that perhaps we can feel so distant from a century after the conflict. Now it feels as though the gratitude to those now passed for their part in the conflict overtakes the feeling of loss that was so acute immediately after the conflict.[25] In these days when veterans of World War Two are getting fewer, it is still evident the loss and sacrifice they witnessed is within them, as seen in the recent D-Day commemorations. Still, we have the mass outpouring of grief and loss to thank for the remembrance traditions we still follow today.

It feels appropriate to end with the changed meaning of the Last Post. This simple bugle call, which is now often played so much for commemorations, was once just simply a way to mark the end of the day.[26] Now it exemplifies mourning for war dead. It is as if this sound puts into music what the hearts of a whole nation were feeling in the aftermath of a static and mechanical war. This small piece of music signifies the images of self-sacrifice, comradeship and solidarity that has since been associated with the activity of collective remembrance.[27]

[1] Turner, A. W., The Last Post: Music, Remembrance and the Great War (London: Aurum Press LTD, 2014), p. XVIII.

[2] Winter, J. M., Remembering War: The Great War Between Memory and History in the Twentieth Century (Yale: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 20.

[3] Winter, J. and Sivan, E., ‘Setting the Framework’, in Winter, J. and Sivan, E. (eds), War and Remembrance in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 6.

[4] Winter, J. and Sivan, E., ‘Setting the Framework’, p. 9.

[5] Maggio, A., ‘The Memory of War: The Role of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in the Identification and Memorialisation of Missing and Unknown Soldiers from WW1’, Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies, 23.2 (2018), p. 32.

[6] Maggio, A., ‘The Memory of War: The Role of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’, pp. 31-32.

[7] R. Wilson, ‘The Burial of the Dead: the British Army on the Western Front, 1914-1918’, War & Society, 31.1 (2012) cited in Maggio, A., ‘The Memory of War: The Role of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’, p. 32.

[8] https://www.cwgc.org/about-us/history-of-the-cwgc (Accessed 18/06/19)

[9] http://hiddenhistorieswwi.ac.uk/uncategorized/2014/09/where-did-the-headstones-for-the-first-world-war-cemeteries-come-from/ (Accessed 18/06/19)

[10] R. Wilson, ‘The Burial of the Dead: the British Army on the Western Front, 1914-1918’, War & Society, 31.1 (2012) cited in Maggio, A., ‘The Memory of War: The Role of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’, p. 32.

[11] Maggio, A., ‘The Memory of War: The Role of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’, p. 34.

[12] J. Winter, ‘Sites of Memory and the Shadow’, in A. Erll and S. Young (eds), Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook (2013) cited in Maggio, A., ‘The Memory of War: The Role of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’, p. 33.

[13] R. Wilson, ‘The Burial of the Dead: the British Army on the Western Front, 1914-1918’, War & Society, 31.1 (2012) cited in Maggio, A., ‘The Memory of War: The Role of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’, p. 34.

[14] G. L. Mosse, ‘National Cemeteries and National Revival: The Cult of the Fallen Soldiers in Germany’, Journal of Contemporary History, 14 (1979) cited in Macleod, J., ‘Britishness and Commemoration: National Memorials to the First World War in Britain and Ireland’, Journal of Contemporary History, 48.4 (2013), pp. 648-649.

[15] Davidson, A., ‘War Memorial Landscape Heritage in England’, Garden History, 42 (2014), p. 59

[16] Davidson, A., ‘War Memorial Landscape Heritage in England’, p. 58.

[17] Davidson, A., ‘War Memorial Landscape Heritage in England’, p. 59.

[18] Johnson, D. A. and Gilbertson, N. F., ‘Commemorations of Imperial Sacrifice at Home and Abroad: British Memorials of the Great War’, The History Teacher, 43.4 (2010), p. 575.

[19] Johnson, D. A. and Gilbertson, N. F., ‘Commemorations of Imperial Sacrifice at Home and Abroad’, p. 563.

[20]Johnson, D. A. and Gilbertson, N. F., ‘Commemorations of Imperial Sacrifice at Home and Abroad’, p. 575.

[21] Turner, A. W., The Last Post: Music, Remembrance and the Great War (London: Aurum Press LTD, 2014), p. IX.

[22] Turner, A. W., The Last Post: Music, Remembrance and the Great War, p. X.

[23] Turner, A. W., The Last Post: Music, Remembrance and the Great War, p. XII.

[24] Turner, A. W., The Last Post: Music, Remembrance and the Great War, p. XII-XIII.

[25] Davidson, A., ‘War Memorial Landscape Heritage in England’, p. 61.

[26] Turner, A. W., The Last Post: Music, Remembrance and the Great War, p. 2.

[27] A. Fletcher, ‘Patriotism, Identity and Commemoration: New Light on the Great War from the Papers of Major Reggie Chenevix Trench’, History, XC (2005) cited in Bartie, A., Fleming, L., Freeman, M., Hulme, T., Readman, P. & Tupman, C., ‘”And Those Who Live, How Shall I Tell Their Fame?”: Historical Pageants, Collective Remembrance and the First World War, 1919-39’, Historical Research, 90.249 (2017), p. 639.

The Yorkist Cause under Henry VII

The Battle of Bosworth on the 22nd of August 1485 has been seen as the last battle of the Wars of the Roses. However, this is not technically true. The Battle of Stoke Field on the 16th of June 1487 was the last serious military attempt by those wishing for the Yorkist cause to be on the throne. It was led by many prominent Yorkist figures, such as John de la Pole, the Earl of Lincoln and Richard III’s loyal best friend, Francis Lovell. This battle all aimed to install Lambert Simnel, a boy who had been classed as Edward, the Earl of Warwick, despite Warwick being incarcerated in the Tower of London on the orders of Henry VII.

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Illustration for Chatterbox (1899), Crowning Henry VII after the Battle of Bosworth, © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

Simnel is believed to have been trained into the role of pretending to be a person of high social status. There is much debate over who the person responsible for this training actually was. Theories have ranged from Margaret of Burgundy, the one I believe to be the most likely, Francis Lovell and even a clergyman under the instruction of Elizabeth Woodville.[1] Despite Simnel eventually, being given employment as a kitchen servant, he was a key indicator to see whether Henry VII’s rule was to be worth its mettle.

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Dovaston, M., Lambert Simnel in the Kitchen (c.1923), The Stapleton Collection / Bridgeman Images

Around five years ago, I was lucky enough to visit the battle site of Stoke as I live fairly local. The atmosphere of the place was somewhat eerie, but this was a start of a fascination for me. The Wars of the Roses has long been something in my life, but I before that trip I never really thought much about the legacy of the House of York and its affect on the reign of Henry VII. Upon that battlefield, I thought of the men who had died and how or why they would have continued to feel loyalty to a cause that the history books tell us finished at Bosworth.

Henry VII was in fear that he would be replaced by force, just as he had done to Richard III.[2] It was a genuine enough fear as the Wars of the Roses had raged on for around fifty years and there were still those who sought to manipulate Yorkist sentiment. Most people of a reasonable age remembered well the violence as “none hath escaped but at one time or another his part has been therein”.[3] What may also have resulted in thoughts of rebellion is that Henry’s reign was not as popular as he had wished, especially in the North where the Tudor regime had “few firm friends”.[4]

Whilst most of the rebellions during the reign of Henry had financial reasons behind them, there was always rumours of Yorkist sentiment behind them. Bennett argues that Henry’s harshness more than likely kindled hope and rumours of Yorkist rebellion.[5] This may have had some nostalgic hindsight linked to it but whilst there was the rumour surrounding it, Henry had reason to be paranoid. Henry VII had dismantled the Plantagenet state and dismembered Plantagenet society, most of all by centralising his own power. This in turn shows his lack of respect for tradition and disassociated himself with what had come before. By creating such antipathy towards the Tudor regime, a culture of spies and spying became central to maintaining his control, thus forming a reign of terror that would later epitomise the rest of the Tudor monarchs.[6] The threat that the Yorkists posed was significant enough to create and fuel this, even well into the reign of Henry VIII in the form of his executing of the Duke of Buckingham.[7]

Warbeck is the main reason for this as he had much more of the country behind him. He claimed to be Richard of York, the youngest of the Princes in the Tower. Many were quick to question whether he really was who he claimed. This pretender was by far the most dangerous for this very reason. he was able to gather support from many foreign rulers, such as Margaret of Burgundy, Charles VIII of France and James IV of Scotland.[8] In this way, Warbeck was able to play on Henry VII’s fears of deposition, which derived from his own life experiences of being a puppet for others in international policies just because of being a challenge to an existing king.[9]

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Portrait of Perkin Warbeck (c.1474-99), Bibliotheque Municipale, Arras, France / Bridgeman Images

Eventually Warbeck was executed due to the continuing threat he posed to the Tudor regime. In order to maintain loyalty to Henry VII, Warbeck was made to confess in front of the crowd at his execution that he had been forced by John Atwater to pretend to be Richard of York.[10] However, it is to be taken into account that Warbeck might have been forced to confess to this through previous torture.

It is clear that whether Simnel and Warbeck were who they claimed to be or not, they were still able to play on Henry VII’s natural fears and general vulnerability of his reign. For this very reason, it is easy to see why Henry did take the Yorkist sympathies seriously. Henry had proved just how easy it was to win by conquest, as he had done at the Battle of Bosworth against Richard III.[11] His fear and paranoia worsened after the death of his wife Elizabeth of York and his son Prince Arthur, but as with any monarch who won the crown by force, he was always looking over his shoulder. In the early years of his reign his treatment of the Northern Rebellion of 1489 was seen as a gross overreaction.[12] Whilst in hindsight the Yorkist cause clearly did not come to fruition, Henry did take it seriously at the time and saw it as the main threat to his reign.

All in all, Henry VII was perhaps not quite as popular as time seems to have suggested. For those who saw the Yorkist regime with nostalgia, Henry had definitely been weighed, measured and found wanting.

[1] Ellis, S. G., Ireland in the Age of the Tudors, 1447-1603: English Expansion and the End of Gaelic Rule (Harlow: Pearson, 1998), p. 84; Ricca, J. A., Francis, Viscount Lovell: Time Reveals All Things (Richard III Foundation Inc, 2005), pp. 95 and 97; Bacon, F., The History of the Reign of King Henry VII (London: Hesperus Press, 2007), p. 17.

[2] Anderson, A. and Imperato, T., Tudor England, 1485-1603 (London: Hodder Murray, 2001), p. 38.

[3] Lit Cant VIII cited in Keen, M., England in the Later Middle Ages, Second edition (London: Routledge, 2003), p. 408.

[4] Bennett, M.J., ‘Henry VII and the Northern Rising of 1489’, English Historical Review, 105.414 (1990), p. 50.

[5] Bennett, M.J., ‘Henry VII and the Northern Rising of 1489’, pp. 35-36.

[6]  Bacon, F., The History of the Reign of King Henry VII, p. 98; Cunningham, S., Henry VII, p. 84; Grant, A., Henry VII: The Importance of His Reign, p. 5.

[7] Lipscomb, S., 1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII (Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2009), p. 192.

[8] Anderson, A. and Imperato, T., Tudor England, p. 47 and 49; Crowson, P.S., Tudor Foreign Policy (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1973), p. 50.

[9] Cunningham, S., Henry VII (London: Routledge, 2007), p. 42; Anderson, A. and Imperato, T., Tudor England, p. 38

[10] Cited in Key, N. and Bucholz, R. (eds), Sources and Debates in English History, 1485-1714 (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), p. 36

[11] Anderson, A. and Imperato, T., Tudor England, p. 46.

[12] Bennett, M.J., ‘Henry VII and the Northern Rising of 1489’, p. 44; Grummitt, D., ‘The Establishment of the Tudor Dynasty’, p. 24.