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Caesar Invades Britain
The first date* in English History is 55 b.c., in which year Julius Caesar (the memorable Roman Emperor) landed, like all other successful invaders of these islands, at Thanet. This was in the Olden Days, when the Romans were top nation on account of their classical education, etc.
*For the other date see Chapter 11, William the Conqueror
Illustration: Top nation
Julius Caesar advanced very energetically, throwing his cavalry several thousands of paces over the River Flumen; but the Ancient Britons, though all well over military age, painted themselves true blue, or wood, and fought as heroically under their dashing queen, Woadi-cea, as they did later in thin red lines under their good queen, Victoria.
Julius Caesar was therefore compelled to invade Britain again the following year (54 b.c., not 56, owing to the peculiar Roman method of counting), and having defeated the Ancient Britons by unfair means, such as battering-rams, tortoises, hippocausts, centipedes, axes, and bundles, set the memorable Latin sentence, 'Veni, Vidi, Vici', which the Romans, who were all very well educated, construed correctly.
The Britons, however, who of course still used the old pronunciation, understanding him to have called them 'Weeny, Weedy, and Weaky', lost heart and gave up the struggle, thinking that he had already divided them All into Three Parts.
Illustration: Dawn of British heroism
The Ancient Britons were by no means savages before the Conquest, and had already made great strides in civilization, e.g. they buried each other in long round wheelbarrows (agriculture) and burnt each other alive (religion) under the guidance of even older Britons called Druids or Eisteddfods, who worshipped the Middletoe in the famous Druidical churchyard at Stoke Penge, The Roman Conquest was, however, a Good Thing, since the Britons were only natives at that time.
For some reason the Romans neglected to overrun the country with fire and the sword, though they had both of these; in fact, after the Conquest they did not mingle with the Britons at all, but lived a semi-detached life in villas. They occupied their time for two or three hundred years in building Roman roads and having Roman baths; this was called the Roman Occupation, and gave rise to the memorable Roman law, 'he who baths first baths fast', which was a Good Thing, and still is. The Roman roads ran absolutely straight in all directions and all led to Rome. The Romans also built towns wherever they were wanted, and, in addition, a wall between England and Scotland to keep out the savage Picts and Scots. This wall was the work of the memorable Roman Emperor Balbus and was thus called Hadrian's Wall. The Picts, or painted men, were so called to distinguish them from the Britons. (See supra, wood.)
Illustration: Roman occupied
The withdrawal of the Roman legions to take part in Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (due to a clamour among the Romans for pompous amusements such as bread and circumstances) left Britain defenceless and subjected Europe to that long succession of Waves of which History is chiefly composed. While the Roman Empire was overrun by waves not only of Ostrogoths, Vizigoths, and even Goths, but also of Vandals (who destroyed works of art) and Huns (who destroyed everything and everybody, including Goths, Ostrogoths, Vizigoths, and even Vandals), Britain was attacked by waves of Picts (and, of course, Scots) who had recently learnt how to climb the wall, and of Angles.
*e.g. The Black Watch, The Red Comyn, and Douglases of all colours.
Illustration: Saxons, and Jutes who, landing at Thanet, soon overran the country with fire (and, of course, the sword)
The Scots (originally Irish, but by now Scotch) were at this time inhabiting Ireland, having driven the Irish (Picts) out of Scotland; while the Picts (originally Scots) were now Irish (living in brackets) and vice versa. It is essential to keep these distinctions clearly in mind (and verce visa).
The brutal Saxon invaders drove the Britons westward into Wales and compelled them to become Welsh; it is now considered doubtful whether this was a Good Thing. Memorable among the Saxon warriors were Hengist and his wife (? or horse), Horsa. Hengist made himself King in the South. Thus Hengist was the first English King and his wife (or horse), Horsa, the first English Queen (or horse). The country was now almost entirely inhabited by Saxons and was therefore renamed England, and thus (naturally) soon became C. of E. This was a Good Thing, because previously the Saxons had worshipped some dreadful gods of their own called Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Illustration: (? or horse)
Noticing some fair-haired children in the slave market one morning, Pope Gregory, the memorable Pope, said (in Latin), 'What are those ?' and on being told that they were Angels, made the memorable joke — 'Non Angli, sed Angeli' ('not Angels, but Anglicans') and commanded one of his Saints called St Augustine to go and convert the rest.
The conversion of England was thus effected by the landing of St Augustine in Thanet and other places, which resulted in the country being overrun by a Wave of Saints. Among these were St Ive, St Pancra, the great St Bernard (originator of the clerical collar), St Bee, St Ebb, St Neot (who invented whisky), St Kit and St Kin, and the Venomous Bead (author of The Rosary).
England was now divided into seven kingdoms and so ready were the English to become C. of E. that on one memorable occasion a whole Kingdom was easily converted by a sparrow.
Illustration: Wave of Sts
Soon after this event Egg-Kings were found on the thrones of all these kingdoms, such as Eggberd, Egg-breth, Eggfroth, etc. None of them, however, succeeded in becoming memorable - except in so far as it is difficult to forget such names as Eggbirth, Eggbred, Egg-beard, Eggfish, etc. Nor is it even remembered by what kind of Eggdeath they perished.
The conversion of Britain was followed by a Wave of Danes, accompanied by their sisters or Sagas, and led by such memorable warriors as Harold Falsetooth and Magnus the Great, who, landing correctly in Thanet, overran the country from right to left, with fire*.
*And, according to certain obstinate historians, the Sword.
After this the Danes invented a law called the Danelaw, which easily proved that since there was nobody else left alive there, all the right-hand part of England belonged to them. The Danish Conquest was, however, undoubtedly a Good Thing, because although it made the Danes top nation for a time it was the cause of Alfred the Cake (and in any case they were beaten utterly in the end by Nelson).
By this time the Saxons had all become very old like the Britons before them and were called ealdormen; when they had been defeated in a battle by the Danes they used to sing little songs to themselves such as the memorable fragment discovered in the Bodleian Library at Oxford:
Syng a song of Saxons
In the Wapentake of Rye
Four and twenty eaoldormen
Too eaold to die....
The Danes, on the other hand, wrote a very defiant kind of Epic poetry, e.g.:
Whan Cnut Cyng the Witan wold enfeoff
Of infangthief and outfangthief
Wonderlich were they enwraged
And wordwar waged
Sware Cnut great scot and lot
Swinge wold ich this illbegotten lot.
Wroth was Cnut and wrothword spake.
Well wold he win at wopantake.
Fain wold he brake frith and cracke heads
And than they shold worshippe his redes.
Swinged Cnut Cyng with swung sword
Howled Witane helle but hearkened his word
Murie sang Quit Cyng
Outfangthief is Damgudthyng.
King Alfred was the first Good King, with the exception of Good King Wenceslas, who, though he looked 4th, really came first (it is not known, however, what King Wenceslas was King of). Alfred ought never to be confused with King Arthur, equally memorable but probably non-existent and therefore perhaps less important historically (unless he did exist).
There is a story that King Arthur once burnt some cakes belonging to Mrs Girth, a great lady of the time, at a place called Atheling. As, however, Alfred could not have been an Incendiary King and a Good King, we may dismiss the story as absurd, and in any case the event is supposed to have occurred in a marsh where the cakes would not have burnt properly. Cf. the famous lines of poetry about King Arthur and the cakes:
"Then slowly answered Alfred from the marsh —'
Arthur, Lord Tennyson.
King Arthur invented Conferences because he was secretly a Weak King and liked to know what his memorable thousand and one Knights wanted to do next. As they were all parfitly jealous Knights he had to have the Memorable Round Table made to have the Conferences at, so that it was impossible to say which was top knight. He had a miraculous sword called Exgalahad with which he defeated the Danes in numerous battles. In this he was also much assisted by his marine inventions, including the water-clock and the British Navy. The latter invention occurred as follows. Alfred noticed that the Danes had very long ships, so he built a great many more much longer ones, thus cleverly founding the British Navy. From that time onwards foreigners, who, unlike the English, do not prefer to fight against long odds, seldom attacked the British Navy. Hence the important International Law called the Rule Britannia, technically known as the Freedom of the Seas.
The English resisted the Danes heroically under Alfred, never fighting except against heavy odds, till at the memorable Peace of Wedmore Alfred compelled the Danes, who were now (of course) beaten, to stop being Danes and become English and therefore C. of E. and get properly married.
For this purpose they were made to go back and start again at Thanet, after which they were called in future Thanes instead of Danes and were on our side and in the right and very romantic.
Alfred had a very interesting wife called Lady Windermere (The Lady of the Lake), who was always clothed in the same white frock, and used to go bathing with Sir Launcelot (also of the Lake) and was thus a Bad Queen. It was also in King Arthur's time that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was published: this was the first English newspaper and had all the news about his victories, and Lady Windennere, and the Cakes, etc.
Illustration: A Bad Queen
Ethelread the Unready was the first Weak King of England and was thus the cause of a fresh Wave of Danes.
He was called the Unready because he was never ready when the Danes were. Rather than wait for him the Danes used to fine him large sums called Danegeld, for not being ready. But though they were always ready, the Danes had very bad memories and often used to forget that they had been paid the Danegeld and come back for it almost before they had sailed away. By that time Ethelread was always unready again.
Finally, Ethelread was taken completely unawares by his own death and was succeeded by Canute.
This memorable monarch, having set out from Norway to collect some Danegeld, landed by mistake at Thanet, and thus became King.
Canute began by being a Bad King on the advice of his Courtiers, who informed him (owing to a misunderstanding of the Rule Britannia) that the King of England was entitled to sit on the sea without getting wet. But finding that they were wrong he gave up this policy and decided to take his own advice in future - thus originating the memorable proverb, 'Paddle your own Canute' - and became a Good King and C. of E., and ceased to be memorable. After Canute there were no more aquatic kings till William IV (see later, Creation of Piers).
Canute had two sons, Halfacanute and Fartacanute, and two other offspring, Rathacanute and Hardlicanute, whom, however, he would never acknowledge, denying to the last that he was their Fathacanute.
Illustration: A Bad King.
On his death Canute's Kingdom was divided between two further sons, who had been previously overlooked, Aftercanute and Harold Harebrush. These were succeeded by Edward the Confessor. It was about this time that the memorable Mac Beth ('Ian Hay'), known as the Bane of Fife, murdered a number of his enemies, including Mac Duff, Lord Dunsinaney, Sleep, etc.
Edward the Confessor was with difficulty prevented from confessing to all these and many other crimes committed in his reign, as he was in the habit of confessing everything whether he had done it or not, and was thus a Weak King.
With Edward the Confessor perished the last English King (viz. Edward the Confessor), since he was succeeded by Waves of Norman Kings (French), Tudors (Welsh), Stuarts (Scottish), and Hanoverians (German), not to mention the memorable Dutch King-William-anmary.
1. Which do you consider were the more alike, Caesar or Pompey, or vice versa ? (Be brief.)
2. Discuss, in latin or gothic (but not both"), whether the Northumbrian Bishops were more schismatical than the Cumbrian Abbots. (Be bright.)
3. Which came first, a.d. or b.c. ? (Be careful.)
4. Has it never occurred to you that the Romans counted backwards ? (Be honest.)
5. How angry would you be if it was suggested
(1) That the Xlth Chap, of the Consolations of Boethius was an interpolated palimpsest ?
(2) That an eisteddfod was an agricultural implement?
6. How would you have attempted to deal with
(a) The Venomous Bead ?
(b) A Mabinogion or Wapentake ? (Be quick.)
7. What would have happened if (a) Boadicea had been the daughter of Edward the Confessor ? (V) Canute had succeeded in sitting on the waves ?
Does it matter ?
8. Have you the faintest recollection of (i)Ethelbreth? (2)Athelthral? (3) Thruthelthrolth?
9. What have you the faintest recollection of?
10. Estimate the average age of
(1) The Ancient Britons.
(3) Old King Cole.
11. Why do you know nothing at all about
(a) The Laws of Infangthief and Egg-seisin ? (6) Saint Pancras?
12. Would you say that Ethelread the Unready was directly responsible for the French Revolution? If so, what mould you say ?
n.b. - Do not attempt to answer more than one question " a time.
In the year 1066 occurred the other memorable date in English History, viz. William the Conqueror, Ten Sixty-six. This is also called The Battle of Hastings, and was when William I (1066) conquered England at the Battle of Senlac (Ten Sixty-six).
When William the Conqueror landed he lay down on the beach and swallowed two mouthfuls of sand. This was his first conquering action and was hi the South; later he ravaged the North as well.
The Norman Conquest was a Good Thing, as from this time onwards England stopped being conquered and thus was able to become top nation.
Illustration: First Conquering Action
William next invented a system according to which everybody had to belong to somebody else, and everybody else to the King. This was called the Feutile System, and in order to prove that it was true he wrote a book called the Doomsday Book, which contained an inventory of all the Possessions of all his subjects; after reading the book through carefully William agreed with it and signed it, indicating to everybody that the Possessions mentioned hi it were now his.
William the Conqueror (1066) is memorable for having loved an old stag as if it was his father, and was in general very fond of animals: he therefore made some very just and conquering laws about the Forests. One of these laws said that all the forests and places which were not already Possessions belonged to the King and that anyone found in them should have his ears and legs cut off -(these belonged to somebody else under the Feutile System, anyway) - and (if this had not already been done) should have his eyes put out with red-hot irons; after this the offender was allowed to fly the country.
Another very conquering law made by William I said that everyone had to go to bed at eight o'clock. This was called the Curfew and was a Good Thing in the end since it was the cause of Gray's Energy in the country churchyard (at Stoke Penge).
Although in all these ways William the Conqueror (1066) was a very strong king he was eventually stumbled to death by a horse and was succeeded by his son Rufus.
This monarch was always very angry and red in the face and was therefore unpopular, so that his death was a Good Thing: it occurred in the following memorable way. Rufus was hunting one day in the New Forest, when William Tell (the memorable crackshot, inventor of Cross-bow puzzles) took unerring aim at a reddish apple, which had fallen on to the King's head, and shot him through the heart. Sir Isaac Walton, who happened to be present at the time, thereupon invented the Law of Gravity. Thus was the reign of Rufus brought to a Good End.
Illustration: A Good Thing
Henry I was famous for his handwriting and was therefore generally called Henry Beau-geste. He was extremely fond of his son William, who was, however, drowned in the White City. Henry tried to console himself for his loss by eating a surfeit of palfreys. This was a Bad Thing since he died of it and never smiled again.
The moment Stephen came to the throne it was realized that he was a mistake and had been christened wrong; thus everything was thrown into confusion.
Stephen himself felt quite uncalled for, and even his Aunt Matilda was able to take him in when she began announcing that she was the real King. Stephen, however, soon discovered that she had been malchristened, too, and was unable to say for certain whether her name was Matilda or Maud.
After this Stephen and Matilda (or Maud) spent the reign escaping from each other over the snow in nightgowns while'God and His Angels slept'.
Taking advantage of this lax state of affairs, the Barons built a surfeit of romantic castles, into which they lured everybody and then put them to the torture; nor is it recorded that the Sword was once sheathed right to the bottom, during the whole of this dreadful reign. Hence the memorable greeting so common among the Barons of the time - 'Merrie Englande!'
Illustration: Lax State of Affairs
Henry II was a great Lawgiver,and it was he who laid down the great Legal Principle that everything is either legal or (preferably) illegal.
He also made another very just arrangement about trials:
Before Henry II's time there were two kinds of legal trial, (a) the Ideal and (6) the Combat. The Ideal form of trial consisted in making a man plunge his head in boiling ploughshares, in order to see whether he had committed a crime or not. According to Henry's reformed system a man was tried first by a jury of his equals and only had to plunge his head into the ploughshares afterwards (in order to confirm the jury's opinion that he had committed the crime). This was obviously a much Better Thing.
The Combat was a system by which in civil cases the litigants decided their dispute by mortal combat, after which the defeated party was allowed to fly the country. But Henry altered all this and declared that a Grand Jury must decide first what the parties were fighting about: a reform which naturally gave rise to grave discontent among the Barons, who believed in the Combat, the whole Combat and nothing but the Combat.
It was at this time that Thomas a Belloc, the great religious leader, claimed that clergymen, whatever crimes they might commit, could not be punished at all; this privilege, which was for some reason known as Benefit of Clergy, was in full accord with the devout spirit of the age. Henry II, however, exclaimed to some of his Knights one day, 'Who will rid me of this Chesterton beast?' Whereupon the Knights pursued Belloc and murdered him in the organ at Canterbury Cathedral. Belloc was therefore made a Saint and the Knights came to be called the Canterbury Pilgrims.
Shortly afterwards Henry died of despair on receiving news that his sons were all revolting.
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