Week of 21 August to 27 August 2017.
Monday: The First Shogun. Tuesday: Raising the Standard, Wednesday: A Proclaemation of Rebellion. Thursday: Eruption of Vesuvius. Saturday: Battle of Crecy.
21 August: The First Shogun 1192.
One of the great pivots in Japanese history was the Gempei War, a conflict which shifted the direction of the nation onto the long road to Sekigahara. It reduced the person of the Emperor to that of a constitutional puppet whose strings were manipulated by the Shogun. Specifically in this case his name was Yoritomo. The hostage Emperor, in return for not being removed or replaced, nodded when he was asked to by the head of the military government. The establishment of Yoritomo as Shogun would remove political power from the Emperor of Japan until 1868.
“In 1192 the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa, who had retained much power during many successive reigns, died, and subsequently in the same year the reigning emperor issued a decree creating Yoritomo sei-i-tai-shôgun (barbarian subjugating Great General) Although this title was first given to Yoritomo, its elements existed previously… But Yoritomo was not destined to enjoy this last distinction many years. The Nihon Guaishi says “In the 12th month of the 9th year (1198-9) Inage Shigenari repaired the bridge on the Sagami river, and Yoritomo went in person to celebrate the completion of the works. On his way back he fell from his horse, and was laid up. In the first Month of the following year he died, at the age of 53.”
Francis Ottiwell Adams: A History of Japan from the Earliest Times.
22 August 1642. Raising the Standard.
To say that King Charles had mishandled his relations with Parliament was something of an understatement by 1642. Nevertheless although the time for talk had passed, it was still feasible to rally a loyal army and reassert royal authority with fire and sword. Traditionally such armies were formally mustered in often showy ceremonies where the royal standard was unfurled or raised and proclamations of intent issued. For the Stuart Dynasty, the raising of the standard at Nottingham, which most see as the official start of the first Civil War, was not to be the last.
“The King came to Nottingham two or three days before the day he had appointed to set up the standard; having taken Lincoln in his way and drawn some arms from the trained bands of that country with him to Nottingham; from whence, the next day, he went to take a view of his horse; whereof there were several troops well armed under food officers, to the number of seven or eight hundred men; with which, being informed “that there were some regiments of foot marching towards Coventry, by the Earl of Essex’s orders” he made haste thither; making little doubt, but that he should be able to get thither before them and so to posses himself of that city; and he did get thither the day before they came; but found not only the gates shut against him, but some of his servants shot and wounded from the walls; nor could all of his messages and summonses prevail with the mayor and magistrates, before there was any garrison there, to suffer the king to enter the city. So great an interest and reputation the parliament had gotten over the affections of the people, whose hearts were alienated from any reverence to the government.
The King could not remedy the affront, but went that night to Stonely, the house then of sir Thomas Lee; where he was well received; and the next day, his body of horse, having a clear view upon an open campania, for five or six miles together, of the [enemies] small body of foot, which consisted not above twelve hundred men, with one troop of horse, which marched with them over that great plain, retired before them, without giving them one charge; which was imputed to the lashty [ill conduct] of Wilmot, who commanded; and had a colder courage than many who were under him, and who were of the opinion that they would have easily defeated that body of Foot: which would have been a most seasonable victory; which would have put Coventry into the kings hands, and sent him with a good omen to the setting up of his standard. Whereas that unhappy retreat which looked like a defeat, and the rebellious nature of Coventry made his Majesty return to Nottingham very melancholy; and he returned thither the very day the standard was set up.
Upon the proclamation on the twenty fifth day of August, the standard was erected, about six of the clock in the evening of a very stormy and tempestuous day. The king himself with a small train, rode to the top of the castle hill. Varney the knight marshal who was standardbearer, carrying the standard, which was then erected in that place with little other ceremony than some drums and trumpets; melancholy men observed many ill presages about that time. There was not one regiment of foot yet levied and brought thither; so that the trained bands that the sherif had brought together was all the strength the king had for his person, and the guard of the standard. There appeared no conflux of men in obedience to the proclamation; the arms and ammunition were not yet come from York, and a General sadness covered the whole town, and the king himself appeared more melancholic that he used to be. The standard itself was blown down, the same night it had been set up, by a very strong and unruly wind, and could not be fixed again in a day or two, till the tempest was allayed. This was the melancholy state of the king’s affairs when the standard was set up.”
A History of the Rebellion. Clarendon.
23 August 1775: By the King, A Proclamation. For suppressing rebellion and sedition.
By comparison to the Stuart’s, the House of Hanover had enjoyed remarkable success in quelling sedition and rebellion in their new realm. From 1709 to 1745 several serious “risings” in favour of the deposed predecessors of the Protestant “George’s” had been crushed. This unbroken series of successes ended in 1775, when the States of North America rebelled over the question of heavy taxation, the British Government gave no concessions and banked on being able to suppress the colonies with force. To that end, instead of raising a standard, George III issued a wordy, repetitive proclamation which is quite simply the polar opposite to the elegant and emotive wording of the colonies’ literate response, the Declaration of Independence.
Whereas many of our subjects in divers parts of Our Colonies and Plantations in North America, misled by dangerous and ill-designing Men, and forgetting the Allegiance which they owe to the Power that has protected and sustained them after various disorderly Acts committed in Disturbance of the Publick Peace, to the obstruction of lawful Commerce, and to the Oppression of Our lawful subjects carrying on the same, have at length proceeded to an open and avowed Rebellion, by arraying themselves in hostile Manner to withstand the Execution of the Law, and traitorously preparing, ordering and levying War against Us. And whereas there is reason to apprehend that such Rebellion hath been such promoted and encouraged by the traitorous Correspondence, Councils and Comfort of divers wicked and desperate Persons within this Realm: To the End therefore that none of Our Subjects may neglect or violate their Duty through ignorance thereof, or through any Doubt of Protection which the Law will afford to their Loyalty and Zeal; We have thought fit, by and with the Advice of Our Privy Council, to issue this Our Royal Proclamation, hereby declaring that not only all Our OfficersCivil and Military are obliged to except their utmost Endeavours to suppress such Rebellion, and to bring Traitors to Justice, but that all of Our Subjects of this Realm and the Dominions thereunto belonging are bound by Law to be aiding and assisting in the Suppression of such Rebellion, and to disclose and make known all traitorous Conspiracies and Attempts against Us, Our Crown and Dignity; And we do strictly charge and command all Our Officers as well Civil as Military, and all other obedient and Loyal Subjects, to use their utmost Endeavours to withstand and suppress such Rebellion, and to make known all Treasons and traitorous Conspiracies which they shall know to be against Us, Our Crown and Dignity; and for that Purpose that they transmit to One of Our Principle Secretaries of State, or other proper Officer, due and full Information of all Persons who shall be found carrying on Correspondence with, or in any Manner or Degree siding or abetting the Persons now in open Arms and Rebellion against Our Government within any of Our Colonies and Plantations in North America, in order to bring to condign Punishment the Authors, Perpetrators, and Abettors of such traitorous Designs.
Given at Our Court at St Jame’s, the Twenty Third Day of August, One thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, in the Fifteenth Year of Our Reign.
God Save the King.”
24 Aug 79 AD. Eruption of Vesuvius.
The only thing that really needs explained here (if you need more than just leave a comment), is that the writer here is Pliny the younger, who is writing (two letters) to his friend the historian Tacitus who was compiling information for one of his books and wished an account regarding the death of Pliny’s uncle, also called Pliny. Writer was an eyewitness of the eruption of Vesuvius, and though not present for everything that he writes, certainly had access to many who were, the account is vivid and compelling.
“He [Pliny the Elder, uncle to the author] was at Misenum, in personal command of the fleet… at about the seventh hour, my mother indicated to him the appearance of a cloud of unusual size and shape. He had sunned himself, and next gone into his cold bath; and after a light meal, which he took reposing, was engaged in study. He called for his sandals, and ascended to a spot from which this portent could best be seen. A cloud was rising – from what mountain was a matter of uncertainly to those who looked at it from a distance: afterwords it was known to be Vesuvius – whose appearance and form would be represented by a pine better than any other tree. For, after towering upward a great height with an extremely lofty stem so to speak, it spread out into a number of branches; because as I imagine, having been lifted up by a recent breeze and having lost the support of this as it grew feebler, or merely in consequence of yielding to its own weight, it was passing away laterally. It was at one time white, at another dingy and spotted according as if carried earth or ashes. To a man of my uncle’s attainments, it seemed a remarkable phenomenon, and one to be observed from a nearer point of view. He ordered his fast sailing cutter to be got ready, and in case I wished to accompany him, gave me leave to do so. I replied that I proffered to go on with my studies and it so happened that he had himself given me something to write about.
He was in the act of leaving the house, when a note was handed him from Rectina. Coesius Bassus, frightened, together with the townspeople there, at the imminence of the peril (for his villa lay under the mountain, and there was no escape for him except taking ship), begged my uncle to rescue him from so critical a situation. Upon this he changed his plan, and, having started on his enterprise as a student, proceeded to carry it out in the spirit of a hero. He launched his four-ranked galleys and embarked in person in order to carry assistance, not to Rectina only, but to many others, for the charms of the coast caused it to be much peopled. He hastened in the direction whence everyone was flying, holding a direct course, and keeping his helm set straight for the peril, so free from fear that he dictated and caused to be noted down, as fast as he seized them with his eyes, all the shiftings and shapes or the dreadful prodigy. Ashes were already falling on the ships, hotter and thicker the nearer they approached; and even pumice and other stones, black, and scorched and cracked by the fire. There has been a sudden retreat of the sea, the debris of the mountain made the shore unapproachable. Having hesitated for a moment wether to turn back, he shortly called back to the helmsman, (who was urging him to do so) “Fortune favours the brave! Make in the direction of Pomponianus.” The latter was at Stabiae, separated from him by the whole width of the bay, for the sea flows in by shores gradually winding and curving inward. There in view of the danger which, though it had not yet approached was nevertheless manifest, and must be upon them as soon as it extended itself, he had got his effects together on board ship, resolved to fly if only the wind left off blowing frommthe opposite quarter. My uncle, brought to shore by this same wind which precisely favoured him, embraced his trembling friend, consoling and exhorting him, and in order to calm his fears by his own sang froid, bade them conduct him to the bath. After bathing he took his place at table and dined gaily or (which was equally heroic) with an air of gaiety. Meanwhile from many points of Mount Vesuvius, vast sheets of flame and tall columns of fire were blazing, the flashes and brightness of which where heightened by the darkness of night. My uncle, to soothe the terrors of those about him, kept telling them that these were fires that the country people had left to burn and their the deserted houses were blazing away all by themselves. Then he gave himself up to repose, and slept a genuine sleep, for his snoring (which in consequence of his full habit was heavy and loud) was heard by those in attendance about his door.
However, the courtyard from which this suite of rooms was approached was already so full of ashes mixed with pumice-stones that its surface was rising, and a longer stay in the bedchamber would have cut off all egress. On being aroused, he came forth and rejoined Pomponius and the others who had kept watching. They consulted together whether to remain under cover or wander about in the open; for the walls shuddered under the repeated and tremendous shocks, and seemed as though dislodging from their foundations, to be swaying too and fro, first in one direction and then in another. On the other hand, in the open air there was the fall of pumice-stones (though they were light and burnt out)to be apprehended. However a comparison of dangers led to the choice of the latter course. With my uncle indeed it was a case of one reason getting the better of another; while in the case of others, fear overcame fear. They covered their heads with pillows tied round with cloths: this was their way of protecting themselves against the shower. By this time it was day elsewhere, but there it was night, the blackest and thickest of all nights, which however, numerous torches and lights of various kinds served to alleviate. It was decided to make for the shore, in order to learn from the nearest point whether the sea was by this time at all available. A huge and angry sea still continued. Here reclining on a cloth which had been thrown on the ground my uncle more than once called for a draught of cold water and swallowed it. Upon this, an outbreak of flame and smell of sulphur, premonitory of farther flames, put some to flight and roused him. With the help of two slave-boys he rose from the ground, but then immediately fell back, owing (as I gather) to the dense vapour obstructing his breath and stopping up the access to his gullet, which with him was weak and narrow and frequently subject to wind. When day returned (the third from that which he had looked upon for the
last time *) his body was found whole and uninjured, in the dress he wore ; its appearance was that of one asleep rather than dead.”
Second letter to Tacitus:
“After the departure of my uncle, I devoted what time was left to study (it was for that purpose that I remained behind) ; the bath shortly followed, then dinner, then a short and troubled sleep. There had been heavings of the earth for many days before this, but they produced the less apprehension from being customary in Campania. On that night, however, they so much increased that everything seemed not so much to be in motion as to be turned upside down. My mother rushed into my room; I was similarly getting up with the intention of arousing her in case she were asleep. We sat down in a courtyard attached to the house, which separated by a small space
the dwelling from the sea, I do not know whether to style it intrepidity or imprudence on my part, seeing that I was only in my eighteenth year ; however, I called for a volume of Livy, and read it as though quite at my ease, and even made extracts from it, as I had begun to do. Upon this, a friend of my uncle’s, who had lately come to him from Spain, when he saw my mother and me seated, at seven o’clock in the morning, yet still there was but a kind of sickly and doubtful light; now, too, that the surrounding buildings had been shaken, as the place in which we were, though not under cover, was of small dimensions, there was a great and unavoidable risk of our being over-
whelmed. Then, at last, we decided on leaving the town. The mass of the inhabitants followed us terror-stricken, and (an effect of panic causing it to resemble prudence) preferring the guidance of others to their own, they pressed on us as we were making off, and impelled us forwards
with their crowded ranks. When we had got beyond the buildings we stopped. There we experienced much that was strange, and many terrors. For the vehicles which we had ordered to be brought out, though standing on a perfectly level plain, were rocking from one side to the other,
and would not remain still in the same place even when propped under with stones. Moreover, we saw the sea sucked back into itself, and repulsed as it were by the quaking of the earth. The shore had certainly encroached on the sea, and retained a number of marine animals on its dry sands. On the other side of us a black and terrible cloud, broken, by the zig-zag and tremulous careerings of the fiery element, And was parting asunder in long trains of flame : these were like lightning, but on a larger scale. Then, indeed, the above-mentioned friend from Spain became more urgent and pressing. ” If,” said he, ” your brother and your uncle is alive, it is his wish that you should be in safety ; if he has perished, it was his wish that you should survive him. Why then hesitate to
escape ? ” We replied that we could not so act as, while uncertain of his safety, to provide for our own. Without further delay he rushed off, and got out of reach of danger as fast as he could.
Not long after, the cloud in question descended on the earth and covered the sea. Already it had enveloped and hidden from view Caprese, and blotted out the promontory of Misenum. Upon this my mother begged and prayed and even ordered me to make my escape as best I could,
it being in my power as a young man to do so ; as for herself, retarded by her years and her frame, she was well content to die provided she had not been the cause of my
death. I, on the other hand, declared that I would not be saved except in her company, and clasping her hand I compelled her to quicken her pace. She obeyed with
reluctance, blaming herself for delaying me. And now came a shower of ashes, though as yet but a thin one. I looked back : a dense mist was closing in behind us, and following us like a torrent as it streamed along the ground. ” Let us turn aside,” said I, ” while we can still see, lest we be thrown down in the road and trampled upon in the darkness by the crowd which accompanies us.” “We had scarcely sat down when night came on, not such as it is when there is no moon, or when there are clouds, but the night of a closed place with the lights put out. One could hear the shrieks of the women, the cries for help of the children, the shouts of the men : some were calling for their parents, others for their young ones, others for their partners and recognising them by their voices. Some were lamenting their own case, others that of those dear to them. There were those who, through fear of death, invoked death. Many raised their hands to the gods, but the greater number concluded that there were no longer gods anywhere, and that the last eternal night of story had settled on the world. Nor were there wanting those who by imaginary and false alarms increased
the real dangers. Some present announced that such and such a part of Misenum had been overthrown, or such another was in flames ; falsely, yet to believing ears. There was a little light again, but this seemed to us not so much day-light as a sign of approaching fire. Accordingly there was fire, but it stayed at a considerable distance from us, then darkness again and a thick and heavy shower of ashes. We got up from time to time and shook these off us ; otherwise we should have been covered with them and even crushed by their weight. I might make a boast of not having suffered to escape me either a groan or a word lacking in fortitude, in the midst of such perils, were it not for the fact that I believed myself to be perishing in company with all things, and all things with me, a miserable and yet a mighty consolation in death.
At last, this black mist grew thin, and went off into a kind of smoke or haze ; soon came real day, and the sun even shone forth, luridly however, and with the appearance it usually wears under an eclipse. Our yet trembling eyes saw everything changed and covered with deep ashes as with snow. We returned to Misenum, and refreshed our persons as best we might, and there spent a night of suspense alternating between hope and fear. Fear prevailed, for the quaking of the earth continued, and many persons, crazy with terror, were sporting with their own and other’s misfortunes by means of the most appalling predictions. Yet not even then, after experiencing and still expecting perils, did we think of going away till news came of my uncle. All this, which is in no way worthy of history, will be for you to read, not to write about, and you must lay it to your own account (since it was you who called for the communication) if it should seem to you not even worthy of a letter. ”
The letters of the younger Pliny; literally translated by John Delaware Lewis
Battle of Crecy.
This was the first of the great “Longbow victories” of the Hundred Years War. An event of fable and legend, which was used by countless generations thereafter as a supreme example of an underdog coming out tops and a pugnacious terrier like national spirit. It was written about perhaps best, (and we should remember that one account isn’t as good as two or three and that without corroboration medieval and ancient histories should be handled carefully,) by the French chronicler Froissart who had access to men who fought at the battle, it also being from the opposing side is at least free from victor’s bias. However as with all disasters he does try to seek the simple explanation and his not unfair appraisal is nevertheless sometimes called unfair. Also note that when the chronicler refers to battalions I believe him to be referring to the medieval practice of calling divisions “Battles”, translated to the more formal battalion, which has no real Medieval comparison, for clarity.
“The English, who were drawn up in three divisions and seated on the ground, seeing their enemies advance, rose undauntedly up, and fell into their ranks. That of the prince [Of Wales] was the first to do so, whose archers were formed in the manner of a portcullis or harrow, and the men-at-arms in the rear. The Earls of Northampton and Arundel who commanded the second division, had posted themselves in good order on his wing to succour the prince, if necessary.
You must know that these kings, earls, barons and lords of France did not advance in any regular order, but one after the other, or any way most pleasing to themselves. As soon as the King of France came in sight of the English his blood began to boil, and he cried out to his marshals, “Order the Genoese forward, and begin the battle, in the name of God and St. Denis!” There were about fifteen thousand Genoese cross-bowmen; but they were quite fatigued, having marched on foot that day six leagues, completely armed and with their crossbows. They told the constable they were not in a fit condition to do any great things that day in battle. The Earl of Alencon, hearing this, said, “This is what one gets by employing such scoundrels, who fall off when there is any need for them.” During this time a heavy rain fell, accompanied by thunder and a very terrible eclipse of the sun [meteorologically rather than astronomically]; and before this rain a great flight of crows hovered in the air over all those battalions, making a loud noise. Shortly afterwards it cleared up, and the sun shone very bright; but the Frenchmen had it in their faces, and the English at their backs. When the Genoese were somewhat in order, and approached the English, they set up a loud shout in order to frighten them; but they remained quite still, and did not seem to attend to it. They then set up a second shout, and advanced a little forward; but the English never moved.
They hooted a third time, advancing with their crossbows presented, and began to shoot. The English archers then advanced one step forward, and shot their arrows with such force and quickness that it seemed as if it snowed. When the Genoese felt these arrows, which pierced their arms, heads and through their armour, some of them cut the strings of their crossbows, others flung them on the ground, and all turned about and retreated quite discomfited. The French had a large body of men-at-arms on horseback, richly dressed, to support the Genoese. The King of France, seeing them thus fall back, cried out, “Kill me those scoundrels, for they stop up our road without any reason.” Then you should have seen the above-mentioned men-at-arms lay about them, killing all they could of these runaways.
The English continued shooting as vigorously and quickly as before. Some of their arrows fell among the horsemen, who were sumptuously equipped, and, killing and wounding many, made them caper and fall among the Genoese, so that they were in such confusion they could never rally again. In the English army there were some Cornish and Welshmen on foot, who had armed themselves with large knives; these, advancing through the ranks of the men-at-arms and archers, who made way for them, came upon the French when they were in this danger, and, falling upon earls, barons, knights and squires, slew many, at which the King of England was afterwards much displeased. The valiant King of Bohemia was slain there. He was called Charles of Luxembourg, for he was the son of the gallant king and emperor Henry of Luxembourg. Having heard the order of the battle, he inquired where his son the Lord Charles was: his attendants answered that they did not know, but believed he was fighting. The king said to them, “Gentlemen, you are all my people, my friends and brethren at arms this day : therefore, as I am blind, I request of you to lead me so far into the engagement that I may strike one stroke with my sword.” The knights replied they would directly lead him forward; and, in order that they might not lose him in the crowd, they fastened all the reins of their horses together, and put the king at their head, that he might gratify his wish, and advanced toward the enemy. The Lord Charles of Bohemia, who already signed his name as King of Germany, and bore the arms, had come in good order to the engagement; but, when he perceived that it was likely to turn against the French, he departed, and I do not well know what road he took. The king his father rode in among the enemy, and made good use of his sword; for he and his companions fought most gallantly. They advanced so far that they were all slain; and on the morrow they were found on the ground with their horses all tied together.
The Earl of Alencon advanced in regular order upon the English to fight with them, as did the Earl of Flanders in another part. These two lords with their detachments, coasting, as it were, the archers, came to the prince’s battalion, where they fought valiantly for a length of time. The King of France was eager to march to the place where he saw their banners displayed; but there was a hedge of archers before him. He had that day made a present of a handsome black horse to Sir John of Hainault, who had mounted on it a knight of his called Sir John de Fusselles, that bore his banner; which horse ran off with him and forced his way through the English army, and, when about to return, stumbled and fell into a ditch, and severely wounded him. He would have been dead if his page had not followed him round the battalions, and found him unable to rise: he had not, however, any other hindrance than from his horse, for the English did not quit the ranks that day to make prisoners. The page alighted and raised him up; but he did not return the way he came, as he would have found it difficult from the crowd. This battle, which was fought on the Saturday between La Broyes and Crécy, was very murderous and cruel, and many gallant deeds of arms were performed that were never known. Toward evening many knights and squires of the French had lost their masters: they wandered up and down the plain, attacking the English in small parties. They were soon destroyed; for the English had determined that day to give no quarter, or hear of ransom from any one.
Early in the day some French, Germans and Savoyards had broken through the archers of the prince’s battalion, and had engaged with the men-at-arms; upon which the second battalion came to his aid, and it was time, for otherwise he would have been hard pressed. The first division, seeing the danger they were in, sent a knight in great haste to the King of England, who was posted upon an eminence near a windmill. On the knight’s arrival he said, “Sir, the Earl of Warwick, the Lord Reginald Cobham, and the others who are about your son, are vigorously attacked by the French; and they entreat that you would come to their assistance with your battalion, for, if their numbers should increase, they fear he will have too much to do.” The king replied, “Is my son dead, unhorsed, or so badly wounded that he cannot support himself?” “Nothing of the sort, thank God,’’ rejoined the knight; “but he is in so hot an engagement that he has great need of your help.” The king answered, “Now, Sir Thomas, return to those that sent you, and tell them from me not to send again for me this day, or expect that I shall come, let what will happen, as long as my son has life: and say that I command them to let the boy win his spurs; for I am determined, if it please God, that all the glory and honour of this day shall be given to him and to those into whose care I have intrusted him.” The knight returned to his lords, and related the king’s answer, which mightily encouraged them, and made them repent they had ever sent such a message.”
Chronicles of Froissart
See you next time for another Adventure in Historyland. Josh.