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Ian Stone, historian | hghff
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Ian Stone, historian

to my regularly updated blogs...

Who was Henry II?

‘He is great, indeed the greatest of monarchs, for he has no superior of whom he stands in awe, nor subject who may resist him’. So wrote Arnulf, bishop of Lisieux, to Thomas Becket in March 1165. The object of Arnulf’s praise was King Henry II (1154-89). True, no one would count Arnulf among the greatest thinkers and theologians of his age, but he was...

Who was Thomas Becket?

In my last blog we saw how, on 19 January 1170, an exasperated Pope Alexander III had given King Henry II of England forty days to end the quarrel with Thomas Becket, his archbishop of Canterbury. The threat to Henry was real enough: failure to comply would lead to an interdict being imposed across Henry’s extensive continental lands. A month beforehand, Becket had threatened to lay...

King Henry II and Thomas Becket: the beginnings of a reconciliation?

On this day 850 years ago, Pope Alexander III (1159-81), by now weary and exasperated with both King Henry II of England (1154-89) and Thomas Becket, Henry’s archbishop of Canterbury, issued letters which set out terms for a ‘form of peace’ between the two men. Becket had been in exile since 2 November 1164 following his clashes with Henry over the rights and liberties of...

Finding the Traces of London’s Huguenots

Angers is a pretty, prosperous city in the province formerly known as Anjou in western France. Unlike Cologne, Antwerp or Amsterdam, it is not a city which one immediately connects with the history of London. True, for a brief period in the Middle Ages, three kings of England, Henry II, Richard I and John were also the counts of Anjou, but there is little evidence...

The Restoration of Canterbury Cathedral

‘While Thomas lives you will have neither peace nor quiet nor see good days’. We know not who supposedly uttered these words to King Henry II (1154-89) about his troublesome archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket (d. 1170), but whoever it was, they had arguably more perspicacity than the two protagonists themselves. Henry was one of England’s greatest monarchs. He was a man filled with seemingly...

The Mayor, the King, and the Conditions of Loyalty

‘Lord, as long as you are willing to be a good king and lord to us, we will be faithful and devoted to you.’ With these words, on 17 March 1265, Thomas fitz Thomas, a draper and mayor of London, told the king of England to his face that the Londoners’ loyalty to him as their king was conditional on his proving himself as a good...

Samuel Pepys and the Plague of 1665

At the end of each month, Samuel Pepys, the great diarist, was wont to take stock of his affairs. Anyone who has read Pepys’s diary cannot help but be struck by his invariable cheerfulness on these occasions. His entry for 30 April 1665, 354 years ago today, was typical of the man: ‘thus I end the month: in great content as to my estate and...

The Thomas Sutton Memorial in Charterhouse Chapel

There is an extraordinary memorial to Thomas Sutton (1532-1611) in the Charterhouse Chapel at Smithfield in London. Standing twenty-five feet high, and thirteen feet wide, it dominates the north aisle of the Chapel. Sutton founded the Charterhouse in 1611 as both a school and as an almshouse and hospital for up to eighty inmates. While the school has moved to Surrey, the almshouse remains and its residents are...

10 February 1258 – King Henry III’s Short-lived Victory

In my previous blog, we saw King Henry III attempt to purge the opposition to his rule in London in 1258. He did this by sending royal officers to the city to enquire into the assessment of a tallage in 1255. These officers were initially frustrated as the leading men of London stood on custom and refused to cooperate with the inquiry. However, the royal officers...

3 February 1258 – King Henry III Moves Against his Opponents in London

On this day in 1258 a series of inquests began in the wards of London. Starting on Sunday 3 February and continuing for an entire week, thirty-six men from each ward of the medieval city answered questions, on oath, that were put to them by John Mansel, administrator and councillor to King Henry III of England (1216-1272). The king had sent Mansel to London on...