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Hardicanute, the son of Canute and Emma of Normandy, was born in 1018. He inherited Denmark on his father's death in 1035, but was unable to come to England immediately to claim the throne. The Witan elected his half-brother, Harold Knutsson, as king instead.

Hardicanute organised an invasion of England but before he arrived, Harold died. He imposed a savage fleet-tax and this made him extremely unpopular with the English people. Hardicanute died in June 1042 after a drinking party.

Cassell's Illustrated History of England/Volume 1/Chapter 20

Hardicanute , or Canute the Strong, had never resigned his pretensions to the crown of England and the country was only spared the horrors of a civil war by the death of the late king. Under pretence of visiting the widowed queen in Flanders, he had assembled a fleet of sixty ships, his real intention being to make a descent upon England. The news of Harold's death induced him at once to set sail He shortly afterwards entered London in triumph, and was acknowledged king without opposition.

The first act of Hardicanute's government afforded his subjects a bad prognostic of his future conduct. He was so enraged at Harold for depriving him of his share of the ​ kingdom, and for the cruel treatment of his brother Alfred, that, in an impotent desire of revenge against the dead, he ordered his body to be dug up, and to be thrown into the Thames and when it was found by some fishermen, and buried in London, he ordered it again to be dug up, and to be thrown once more into the river but it was fished up a second time, and then interred with great secrecy. Godwin, equally servile and insolent, submitted to be his instrument in that unnatural and brutal action.

That nobleman knew that he was universally believed to have been an accomplice in the barbarity exercised on Alfred, and that he was on that account obnoxious to Hardicanute: and perhaps he hoped, by displaying this rage against Harold's memory, to justify himself from having had any participation in his counsels but Prince Edward, being invited over by the king, immediately on his appearance preferred an accusation against Godwin for the murder of Alfred, and demanded justice for that crime. Godwin, in order to appease the king, made him a magnificent present of a galley with a gilt stern, rowed by fourscore men, who wore each of them a gold bracelet on his arm, weighing sixteen ounces, and were armed and clothed in the most sumptuous manner. Hardicanute, pleased with the splendour of this spectacle, quickly forgot his brother's murder and on Godwin's swearing that he was innocent of the crime, he allowed him to be acquitted.


English histories Edit

As they are in the First Folio, the plays are listed here in the sequence of their action, rather than the order of the plays' composition. Short forms of the full titles are used.

  • King John
  • Edward III
  • Richard II
  • Henry IV, Part 1
  • Henry IV, Part 2
  • Henry V
  • Henry VI, Part 1
  • Henry VI, Part 2
  • Henry VI, Part 3
  • Richard III
  • Henry VIII

Roman histories Edit

As noted above, the First Folio groups these with the tragedies.

Set in ancient Rome, Titus Andronicus dramatises a fictional story and is therefore excluded as a Roman history.

Other histories Edit

As with the Roman plays, the First Folio groups these with the tragedies. Although they are connected with regional royal biography, and based on similar sources, they are usually not considered part of Shakespeare's English histories.

The source for most of the English history plays, as well as for Macbeth and King Lear, is the well-known Raphael Holinshed's Chronicle of English history. The source for the Roman history plays is Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans Compared Together, in the translation made by Sir Thomas North in 1579. Shakespeare's history plays focus on only a small part of the characters' lives, and also frequently omit significant events for dramatic purposes.

Shakespeare was living in the reign of Elizabeth I, the last monarch of the House of Tudor, and his history plays are often regarded as Tudor propaganda because they show the dangers of civil war and celebrate the founders of the Tudor dynasty. In particular, Richard III depicts the last member of the rival House of York as an evil monster ("that bottled spider, that foul bunchback'd toad"), a depiction disputed by many modern historians, while portraying his successor, Henry VII, in glowing terms. Political bias is also clear in Henry VIII, which ends with an effusive celebration of the birth of Elizabeth. However, Shakespeare's celebration of Tudor order is less important in these plays than his presentation of the spectacular decline of the medieval world. Some of Shakespeare's histories—notably Richard III—point out that this medieval world came to its end when opportunism and Machiavellianism infiltrated its politics. By nostalgically evoking the late Middle Ages, these plays described the political and social evolution that had led to the actual methods of Tudor rule, so that it is possible to consider the English history plays as a biased criticism of their own country.

Lancaster, York, and Tudor myths Edit

Shakespeare made use of the Lancaster and York myths, as he found them in the chronicles, as well as the Tudor myth. The 'Lancaster myth' regarded Richard II's overthrow and Henry IV's reign as providentially sanctioned, and Henry V's achievements as a divine favour. The 'York myth' saw Edward IV's deposing of the ineffectual Henry VI as a providential restoration of the usurped throne to the lawful heirs of Richard II. The 'Tudor myth' formulated by the historians and poets recognised Henry VI as a lawful king, condemned the York brothers for killing him and Prince Edward, and stressed the hand of divine providence in the Yorkist fall and in the rise of Henry Tudor, whose uniting of the houses of Lancaster and York had been prophesied by the 'saintly' Henry VI. Henry Tudor's deposing of Richard III "was justified on the principles of contemporary political theory, for Henry was not merely rebelling against a tyrant but putting down a tyrannous usurper, which The Mirror for Magistrates allowed". [2] Because Henry Tudor prayed before Bosworth Field to be God's minister of punishment, won the battle and attributed victory to Providence, the Tudor myth asserted that his rise was sanctioned by divine authority. [3]

The later chroniclers, especially Polydore Vergil, Edward Hall and Raphael Holinshed, were not interested in 'justifying' the Tudor regime by asserting the role of Providence instead they stressed the lessons to be learned from the workings of Providence in the past, sometimes endorsing contradictory views of men and events for the sake of the different lessons these suggested, sometimes slanting their interpretations to draw a parallel with, or a moral for, their time. Consequently, though Hall in his Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and Yorke (1548) saw God's curse laid upon England for the deposing and murder of Richard II, God finally relenting and sending peace in the person and dynasty of Henry Tudor, and though Holinshed's final judgement was that Richard Duke of York and his line were divinely punished for violating his oath to let Henry VI live out his reign, the chroniclers tended to incorporate elements of all three myths in their treatment of the period from Richard II to Henry VII. [4] For Shakespeare's use of the three myths, see Interpretations.

Shakespeare's double tetralogy Edit

H. A. Kelly in Divine Providence in the England of Shakespeare's Histories (1970) [5] examines political bias and assertions of the workings of Providence in (a) the contemporary chronicles, (b) the Tudor historians, and (c) the Elizabethan poets, notably Shakespeare in his two tetralogies, (in composition-order) Henry VI to Richard III and Richard II to Henry V. According to Kelly, Shakespeare's great contribution, writing as a historiographer-dramatist, was to eliminate the supposedly objective providential judgements of his sources, and to distribute them to appropriate spokesmen in the plays, presenting them as mere opinion. Thus the sentiments of the Lancaster myth are spoken by Lancastrians, the opposing myth is voiced by Yorkists, and the Tudor myth is embodied in Henry Tudor. Shakespeare "thereby allows each play to create its own ethos and mythos and to offer its own hypotheses concerning the springs of action". [6]

Where the chronicles sought to explain events in terms of divine justice, Shakespeare plays down this explanation. Richard Duke of York, for example, in his speech to Parliament about his claim, placed great stress, according to the chronicles, on providential justice Shakespeare's failure to make use of this theme in the parliament scene at the start of 3 Henry VI, Kelly argues, "would seem to amount to an outright rejection of it". [7] In the first tetralogy, Henry VI never views his troubles as a case of divine retribution in the second tetralogy, evidence for an overarching theme of providential punishment of Henry IV "is completely lacking". [8] Among the few allusions in the plays to hereditary providential punishment are Richard II's prediction, at his abdication, of civil war, [9] Henry IV's fear of punishment through his wayward son, [10] Henry V's fear of punishment for his father's sins, [11] and Clarence's fear of divine retribution meted out on his children. [12] Again, where the chronicles argue that God was displeased with Henry VI's marriage to Margaret and the broken vow to the Armagnac girl, Shakespeare has Duke Humphrey object to Margaret because the match entails the loss of Anjou and Maine. [13] (Kelly dismisses the view of E. M. W. Tillyard and A. S. Cairncross of Margaret as the diabolical successor to Joan of Arc in England's punishment by God.) As for suggestions of a benevolent Providence, Shakespeare does appear to adopt the chronicles' view that Talbot's victories were due to divine aid, [14] where Joan of Arc's were down to devilish influence, but in reality he lets the audience see that "she has simply outfoxed [Talbot] by superior military strategy". [15] (Talbot's eventual defeat and death are blamed in Shakespeare not on Joan but on dissention among the English. [16] ) In place of providential explanations, Shakespeare often presents events more in terms of poetic justice or Senecan dramaturgy. [17] Dreams, prophecies and curses, for example, loom large in the earlier tetralogy and "are dramatized as taking effect", among them Henry VI's prophecy about the future Henry VII. [18]

Accordingly, Shakespeare's moral characterisation and political bias, Kelly argues, change from play to play, "which indicates that he is not concerned with the absolute fixing of praise or blame", though he does achieve general consistency within each play:

Many of his changes in characterisation must be blamed upon the inconsistencies of the chroniclers before him. For this reason, the moral conflicts of each play must be taken in terms of that play, and not supplemented from the other plays. [20]

Shakespeare meant each play primarily to be self-contained. Thus in Richard II the murder of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, inaugurates the action—John of Gaunt places the guilt on Richard II—but Woodstock is forgotten in the later plays. Again, Henry IV, at the end of Richard II, speaks of a crusade as reparation for Richard's death: but in the next two plays he does not show remorse for his treatment of Richard. As for the Henry VI plays, the Yorkist view of history in 1 Henry VI differs from that in 2 Henry VI: in Part 1 the conspiracy of the Yorkist Richard Earl of Cambridge against Henry V is admitted in Part 2 it is passed silently over. [21] Henry VI's attitude to his own claim undergoes changes. Richard III does not refer to any events prior to Henry VI's reign. [17]

Kelly finds evidence of Yorkist bias in the earlier tetralogy. 1 Henry VI has a Yorkist slant in the dying Mortimer's narration to Richard Plantagenet (later Duke of York). [22] Henry VI is weak and vacillating and overburdened by piety neither Yorkists nor Queen Margaret think him fit to be king. [23] The Yorkist claim is put so clearly that Henry admits, aside, that his own is weak [24] —"the first time," notes Kelly, "that such an admission is conjectured in the historical treatment of the period". Shakespeare is suggestively silent in Part 3 on the Yorkist Earl of Cambridge's treachery in Henry V's reign. Even loyal Exeter admits to Henry VI that Richard II could not have resigned the crown legitimately to anyone but the heir, Mortimer. [25] Edward (later IV) tells his father York that his oath to Henry was invalid because Henry had no authority to act as magistrate.

As for Lancastrian bias, York is presented as unrighteous and hypocritical in 2 Henry VI, [26] and while Part 2 ends with Yorkist victories and the capture of Henry, Henry still appears "the upholder of right in the play". [27] In Richard III in the long exchange between Clarence and the assassins we learn that not only Clarence but also implicitly the murderers and Edward IV himself consider Henry VI to have been their lawful sovereign. The Duchess of York's lament that her family "make war upon themselves, brother to brother, blood to blood, self against self" [28] derives from Vergil and Hall's judgment that the York brothers paid the penalty for murdering King Henry and Prince Edward. In the later tetralogy Shakespeare clearly inclines towards the Lancaster myth. He makes no mention of Edmund Mortimer, Richard's heir, in Richard II, an omission which strengthens the Lancastrian claim. The plan in Henry IV to divide the kingdom in three undermines Mortimer's credibility. The omission of Mortimer from Henry V was again quite deliberate: Shakespeare's Henry V has no doubt about his own claim. [29] Rebellion is presented as unlawful and wasteful in the second tetralogy: as Blunt says to Hotspur, "out of limit and true rule / You stand against anointed majesty". [30]

Shakespeare's retrospective verdict, however, on the reign of Henry VI, given in the epilogue to Henry V, is politically neutral: "so many had the managing" of the state that "they lost France and made his England bleed". [31] In short, though Shakespeare "often accepts the moral portraitures of the chronicles which were originally produced by political bias, and has his characters commit or confess to crimes which their enemies falsely accused them of" (Richard III being perhaps a case in point), [32] his distribution of the moral and spiritual judgements of the chronicles to various spokesmen creates, Kelly believes, a more impartial presentation of history.

Shakespearean history in the wider sense Edit

John F. Danby in Shakespeare’s Doctrine of Nature (1949) examines the response of Shakespeare's history plays (in the widest sense) to the vexed question: 'When is it right to rebel?’, and concludes that Shakespeare's thought ran through three stages: (1) In the Wars of the Roses plays, Henry VI to Richard III, Shakespeare shows a new thrustful godlessness attacking the pious medieval structure represented by Henry VI. He implies that rebellion against a legitimate and pious king is wrong, and that only a monster such as Richard of Gloucester would have attempted it. (2) In King John and the Richard II to Henry V cycle, Shakespeare comes to terms with the Machiavellianism of the times as he saw them under Elizabeth. In these plays he adopts the official Tudor ideology, by which rebellion, even against a wrongful usurper, is never justifiable. (3) From Julius Caesar onwards, Shakespeare justifies tyrannicide, but in order to do so moves away from English history to the camouflage of Roman, Danish, Scottish or Ancient British history.

Danby argues that Shakespeare's study of the Machiavel is key to his study of history. His Richard III, Faulconbridge in King John, Hal and Falstaff are all Machiavels, characterised in varying degrees of frankness by the pursuit of "Commodity" (i.e. advantage, profit, expediency). [33] [34] Shakespeare at this point in his career pretends that the Hal-type Machiavellian prince is admirable and the society he represents historically inevitable. Hotspur and Hal are joint heirs, one medieval, the other modern, of a split Faulconbridge. Danby argues, however, that when Hal rejects Falstaff he is not reforming, as is the common view, [35] but merely turning from one social level to another, from Appetite to Authority, both of which are equally part of the corrupt society of the time. Of the two, Danby argues, Falstaff is the preferable, being, in every sense, the bigger man. [36] In Julius Caesar there is a similar conflict between rival Machiavels: the noble Brutus is a dupe of his Machiavellian associates, while Antony's victorious "order", like Hal's, is a negative thing. In Hamlet king-killing becomes a matter of private rather than public morality—the individual's struggles with his own conscience and fallibility take centre stage. Hamlet, like Edgar in King Lear later, has to become a "machiavel of goodness". [37] In Macbeth the interest is again public, but the public evil flows from Macbeth's primary rebellion against his own nature. "The root of the machiavelism lies in a wrong choice. Macbeth is clearly aware of the great frame of Nature he is violating." [38]

King Lear, in Danby's view, is Shakespeare's finest historical allegory. The older medieval society, with its doting king, falls into error, and is threatened by the new Machiavellianism it is regenerated and saved by a vision of a new order, embodied in the king's rejected daughter. By the time he reaches Edmund, Shakespeare no longer pretends that the Hal-type Machiavellian prince is admirable and in Lear he condemns the society which is thought to be historically inevitable. Against this he holds up the ideal of a transcendent community and reminds the audience of the "true needs" of a humanity to which the operations of a Commodity-driven society perpetually do violence. This "new" thing that Shakespeare discovers is embodied in Cordelia. The play thus offers an alternative to the feudal–Machiavellian polarity, an alternative foreshadowed in France's speech (I.1.245–256), in Lear and Gloucester's prayers (III.4. 28–36 IV.1.61–66), and in the figure of Cordelia. Cordelia, in the allegorical scheme, is threefold: a person, an ethical principle (love), and a community. Until that decent society is achieved, we are meant to take as role-model Edgar, the Machiavel of patience, of courage and of "ripeness". After King Lear Shakespeare's view seems to be that private goodness can be permanent only in a decent society. [39]

Dates and themes Edit

Chronicle plays—history-plays based on the chronicles of Polydore Vergil, Edward Hall, Raphael Holinshed and others—enjoyed great popularity from the late 1580s to c. 1606. By the early 1590s they were more numerous and more popular than plays of any other kind. [40] John Bale's morality play Kynge Johan [:King John], c. 1547, is sometimes considered a forerunner of the genre. King John was of interest to 16th century audiences because he had opposed the Pope two further plays were written about him in the late 16th century, one of them Shakespeare's Life and Death of King John. Patriotic feeling at the time of the Spanish Armada contributed to the appeal of chronicle plays on the Hundred Years' War, notably Shakespeare's Henry VI trilogy, while unease over the succession at the close of Elizabeth's reign made plays based on earlier dynastic struggles from the reign of Richard II to the Wars of the Roses topical. Plays about the deposing and killing of kings, or about civil dissension, met with much interest in the 1590s, while plays dramatising supposedly factual episodes from the past, advertised as "true history" (though the dramatist might know otherwise), drew larger audiences than plays with imagined plots. [41]

The chronicle play, however, always came under close scrutiny by the Elizabethan and Jacobean authorities. Playwrights were banned from touching "matters of divinity or state", [42] a ban that remained in force throughout the period, the Master of Revels acting as licenser. [43] [44] The deposition scene in Richard II (IV.i.154–318), for example, almost certainly part of the play as it was originally written, [45] [43] [46] was omitted from the early quartos (1597, 1598, 1608) and presumably performances, on grounds of prudence, and not fully reinstated till the First Folio. The chronicle play, as a result, tended ultimately to endorse the principles of 'Degree', order, and legitimate royal prerogative, and so was valued by the authorities for its didactic effect. [47] [48] [49] Some have suggested that history plays were quietly subsidised by the state, for propaganda purposes. [50] The annual grant of a thousand pounds by the Queen to the Earl of Oxford from 1586 was, it has been argued, "meant to assist him as theatrical entrepreneur for the Court, in such a way that it would not become known that the Queen was offering substantial backing to the acting companies". [51] [52] Oxford was to support plays "which would educate the English people . in their country's history, in appreciation of its greatness, and of their own stake in its welfare". [50] Whether coincidence or not, a spate of history plays followed the authorization of the annuity. [51] B. M. Ward pointed out (1928) that the elaborated, unhistorical and flattering role assigned to an earlier Earl of Oxford, the 11th, in The Famous Victories of Henry V (c. 1587), was designed as an oblique compliment to a contemporary financial backer of chronicle plays. [53] By contrast, a less heroic ancestor of Oxford's, Robert de Vere, the 9th earl, who deserted at the Battle of Radcot Bridge, is left out of Thomas of Woodstock, which deals with the first part of Richard II's reign, though he was one of the king's early circle of favourites and a contemporary of Robert Tresilian, the play's villain. [54]

Development Edit

The early chronicle plays such as The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth were, like the chronicles themselves, loosely structured, haphazard, episodic battles and pageantry, spirits, dreams and curses, added to their appeal. The scholar H. B. Charlton gave some idea of their shortcomings when he spoke of "the wooden patriotism of The Famous Victories, the crude and vulgar Life and Death of Jack Straw, the flatness of The Troublesome Reign of King John, and the clumsy and libellous Edward I ". [55] Under the influence of Marlowe's Tamburlaine, however, c. 1587, with its lofty poetry and its focus on a single unifying figure, of Shakespeare's Contention plays, c. 1589–90, and of the machiavels of revenge tragedy, chronicle-plays rapidly became more sophisticated in characterisation, structure, and style. Marlowe himself turned to English history as a result of the success of Shakespeare's Contention. [56] [57] In Edward II, c. 1591, he moved from the rhetoric and spectacle of Tamburlaine to "the interplay of human character", [58] showing how chronicle material could be compressed and rearranged, and bare hints turned to dramatic effect. [59] [60]

"There was by that time" [the 1590s] "a national historical drama, embodying the profoundest sentiments by which the English people were collectively inspired—pride in a great past, exultation in a great present, confidence in a great future. Such a drama could develop only when certain conditions had been fulfilled—when the people, nationalized, homogeneous, feeling and acting pretty much as one, had become capable of taking a deep and active interest in its own past when it had become awakened to a sense of its own greatness when there had come into being a dramatic form by which historical material could be presented in such a way as to reveal those aspects of which the public felt most deeply the inspiration. This homogeneity did not arise out of identity of economic conditions, of political belief, or of religious creed, but was the product of the common participation, individually and various as it might be, in those large and generous emotions. These, for a brief glorious moment, were shared by Catholic and Puritan, courtier and citizen, master and man. And so we can speak of a national unanimity of thought and action, and of a national historical drama."
― W. D. Briggs, Marlowe's 'Edward II' (1914) [61]

Shakespeare then took the genre further, bringing deeper insights to bear on the nature of politics, kingship, war and society. He also brought noble poetry to the genre and a deep knowledge of human character. [62] In particular, he took a greater interest than Marlowe in women in history, and portrayed them with more subtlety. [63] In interpreting events in terms of character, more than in terms of Providence or Fortune, or of mechanical social forces, Shakespeare could be said to have had a "philosophy of history". [64] With his genius for comedy he worked up in a comic vein chronicle material such as Cade's revolt and the youth of Prince Hal with his genius for invention, he largely created vital figures like Fauconbridge (if The Troublesome Reign was his) and Falstaff. [65] His chronicle plays, taken together in historical order, have been described as constituting a "great national epic". [66] Argument for possible Shakespearean authorship or part-authorship of Edward III and Thomas of Woodstock [67] has in recent years sometimes led to the inclusion of these plays in the Shakespeare cycle. [68]

Uncertainty about composition-dates and authorship of the early chronicle plays makes it difficult to attribute influence or give credit for initiating the genre. Some critics believe that Shakespeare has a fair claim to have been the innovator. In 1944 E. M. W. Tillyard argued that The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, c. 1586–87, could have been a work of Shakespeare's apprenticeship, [69] a claim developed by Seymour Pitcher in 1961. Pitcher argued that annotations to a copy Edward Hall's Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and Yorke that was discovered in 1940 (the volume is now in the British Library) were probably written by Shakespeare and that these are very close to passages in the play. [70] [71] Again, W. J. Courthope (1905), [72] E. B. Everitt (1965) and Eric Sams (1995) argued that The Troublesome Reign of King John, c. 1588–89, was Shakespeare's early version of the play later rewritten as The Life and Death of King John (the Second Quarto, 1611, had attributed The Troublesome Reign to "W.Sh."). [73] [74] Sams called The Troublesome Reign "the first modern history play". [75] Everitt and Sams also believed that two early chronicle plays based on Holinshed and dramatizing 11th century English history, Edmund Ironside, or War Hath Made All Friends, written c. 1588–89, and its lost sequel Hardicanute, performed in the 1590s, were by Shakespeare. [76] A rival claimant to be the first English chronicle play is The True Tragedie of Richard the Third, of unknown authorship from the same period. In practice, however, playwrights were both 'influencers' and influenced: Shakespeare's two Contention plays (1589–90), influenced by Marlowe's Tamburlaine (1587), in turn influenced Marlowe's Edward II, which itself influenced Shakespeare's Richard II. [77] [78]

Of later chronicle plays, T. S. Eliot considered Ford's Chronicle History of Perkin Warbeck "unquestionably [his] highest achievement" and "one of the very best historical plays outside of the works of Shakespeare in the whole of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama." [79] Chronicle plays based on the history of other countries were also written during this period, among them Marlowe's The Massacre at Paris, Chapman's Charles, Duke of Biron, Webster's lost Guise, and Shakespeare's Macbeth. In some of the chronicle-based plays, as the various contemporary title-pages show, the genres of 'chronicle history' and 'tragedy' overlap.

Decline Edit

Several causes led to the decline of the chronicle play in the early 17th century: a degree of satiety (many more chronicle plays were produced than the surviving ones listed below) a growing awareness of the unreliability of the genre as history [80] the vogue for 'Italianate' subject-matter (Italian, Spanish or French plots) the vogue for satirical drama of contemporary life ('city comedy') the movement among leading dramatists, including Shakespeare, away from populism and towards more sophisticated court-centred tastes the decline in national homogeneity with the coming of the Stuarts, and in the 'national spirit', that ended in civil war and the closing of the theatres (1642). [81] Some of these factors are touched on by Ford in his Prologue to Perkin Warbeck (c. 1630), a defence of the chronicle play.

Table A: English chronicle plays, by reign dramatized
Reign Play Playwright(s) Date(s)
Edmund Ironside Edmund Ironside, or War Hath Made All Friends Shakespeare (?) [76] written c. 1588–89 (?) [76]
John Kynge Johan John Bale written 1540s (?)
The Troublesome Raigne of John, King of England George Peele (?) / Shakespeare (?) [72] [82] written c. 1588 published 1591
The Life and Death of King John Shakespeare written c. 1595 published 1623
Henry III
Edward I The Famous Chronicle of King Edward the First George Peele written 1590–91 [83] published 1593
Edward II The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England Christopher Marlowe written c. 1591–92 published 1594
Edward III The Raigne of King Edward the Third Shakespeare (?) written c. 1589, revised c. 1593–94 [84] published 1596
Richard II The Life and Death of Iack Straw, a Notable Rebell in England George Peele (?) published 1593
Thomas of Woodstock or King Richard the Second, Part One Samuel Rowley (?) / Shakespeare (?) [67] written c. 1590 [85]
The Tragedie of King Richard the Second / The Life and Death of King Richard the Second Shakespeare written c. 1595 published 1597, later enlarged
Henry IV The Historie of Henrie the Fourth / The First Part of Henry the Fourth Shakespeare written c. 1597 published 1599
The Second Part of Henrie the Fourth Shakespeare written c. 1598 published 1600
Henry V The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth Samuel Rowley (?) / Shakespeare (?) written c. 1586 published 1598
The Cronicle History of Henry the Fift (Quarto) Shakespeare written 1590s published 1600
The Life of King Henry the Fift (Folio) Shakespeare written 1599, published 1623
The True and Honourable Historie of the Life of Sir John Oldcastle Anthony Munday, Michael Drayton, Richard Hathwaye and Robert Wilson published 1600
Henry VI The First Part of Henry the Sixt Shakespeare written c. 1590–91 [86] published 1623
The First Part of the Contention Betwixt the Two Famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster (Quarto) Shakespeare written c. 1589–90 [87] published 1594
The Second Part of Henry the Sixt (Folio) Shakespeare published 1623
Henry VI and Edward IV The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, and the Death of Good King Henrie the Sixt (Quarto) Shakespeare written c. 1589–90 [88] published 1595
The Third Part of Henry the Sixt (Folio) Shakespeare published 1623
Edward IV The First and Second Partes of King Edward the Fourth, containing His Mery Pastime with the Tanner of Tamworth, as Also His Loue to Faire Mistrisse Shoar Thomas Heywood published 1599
Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III The True Tragedie of Richard the Third Thomas Lodge (?) / George Peele (?) / Thomas Kyd (?) / Shakespeare (?) written c. 1585 [89] or 1587–88 (?) [90] or c. 1589–90 [88] published 1594
The Tragedy of King Richard the Third Shakespeare written c. 1591–93 published 1597
Henry VII The Chronicle History of Perkin Warbeck John Ford written c. 1630 published 1634
Henry VIII All is True or The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight Shakespeare and (?) John Fletcher written c. 1613 published 1623
Sir Thomas More Anthony Munday, Henry Chettle, Thomas Heywood, Thomas Dekker, Shakespeare written 1590s
The True Chronicle Historie of the Life and Death of Thomas Lord Cromwell [91] Wentworth Smith (?) published 1613
When You See Me You Know Me or The Famous Chronicle Historie of King Henrie the Eight, with the Birth and Virtuous Life of Edward Prince of Wales Samuel Rowley published 1605
Edward VI
Mary I Sir Thomas Wyatt Thomas Dekker and John Webster written c. 1607
Mary I, Elizabeth I If You Know Not Me, You Know No Bodie, or The Troubles of Queene Elizabeth Thomas Heywood published 1605
Elizabeth I The Second Part of If You Know Not Me, You Know No Bodie, or The Troubles of Queene Elizabeth Thomas Heywood published 1606
Table B: English chronicle plays in conjectural composition-order
Play Playwright(s) Date(s)
The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth Samuel Rowley (?) / Shakespeare (?) written c. 1586 published 1598
The True Tragedie of Richard the Third Thomas Lodge (?) / George Peele (?) / Thomas Kyd (?) / Shakespeare (?) written c. 1586 [92] to c. 1590 [88] published 1594
The Troublesome Raigne of John, King of England George Peele (?) / Shakespeare (?) [82] written c. 1588 published 1591
Edmund Ironside, or War Hath Made All Friends Shakespeare (?) [76] written c. 1588–89 [76]
The Raigne of King Edward the Third Shakespeare (?) written c. 1589, revised c. 1593–94 [84] published 1596
The First Part of the Contention Betwixt the Two Famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster (Quarto) Shakespeare written c. 1589–90 [87] published 1594
The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, and the Death of Good King Henrie the Sixt (Quarto) Shakespeare written c. 1589–90 [88] published 1595
The Second Part of Henry the Sixt (Folio) Shakespeare published 1623
The Third Part of Henry the Sixt (Folio) Shakespeare published 1623
Thomas of Woodstock or King Richard the Second, Part One Samuel Rowley (?) / Shakespeare (?) written c. 1590 [93] [78] [85]
The Famous Chronicle of King Edward the First George Peele written 1590–91 [83] published 1593
The Life and Death of Iack Straw, a Notable Rebell in England George Peele (?) published 1593
The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England Christopher Marlowe written c. 1591–92 [77] [78] published 1594
The First Part of Henry the Sixt Shakespeare written c. 1591 [86] published 1623
The Cronicle History of Henry the Fift (Quarto) Shakespeare written 1590s published 1600
The Tragedy of King Richard the Third Shakespeare written c. 1591–93 published 1597
The Life and Death of King John Shakespeare written c. 1595 published 1623
The Tragedie of King Richard the Second / The Life and Death of King Richard the Second Shakespeare written c. 1595 published 1597, later enlarged
Sir Thomas More Anthony Munday, Henry Chettle, Thomas Heywood, Thomas Dekker, Shakespeare written 1590s
The Historie of Henrie the Fourth / The First Part of Henry the Fourth Shakespeare written c. 1597 published 1599
The Second Part of Henrie the Fourth Shakespeare written c. 1598 published 1600
The Life of King Henry the Fift (Folio) Shakespeare written 1599, published 1623
The First and Second Partes of King Edward the Fourth, containing His Mery Pastime with the Tanner of Tamworth, as Also His Loue to Faire Mistrisse Shoar Thomas Heywood published 1599
The True and Honourable Historie of the Life of Sir John Oldcastle Anthony Munday, Michael Drayton, Richard Hathwaye and Robert Wilson published 1600
When You See Me You Know Me or The Famous Chronicle Historie of King Henrie the Eight, with the Birth and Virtuous Life of Edward Prince of Wales Samuel Rowley published 1605
If You Know Not Me, You Know No Bodie, or The Troubles of Queene Elizabeth Thomas Heywood published 1605
The Second Part of If You Know Not Me, You Know No Bodie, or The Troubles of Queene Elizabeth Thomas Heywood published 1606
Sir Thomas Wyatt Thomas Dekker and John Webster written c. 1607
All is True or The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight Shakespeare and (?) John Fletcher written c. 1613 published 1623
The True Chronicle Historie of the Life and Death of Thomas Lord Cromwell Wentworth Smith (?) published 1613
The Chronicle History of Perkin Warbeck John Ford written c. 1630 published 1634

The above tables include both the Quarto and the Folio versions of Henry V and Henry VI Parts 2 and 3, because the Quartos may preserve early versions of these three plays (as opposed to 'corrupted' texts). [94] They exclude chronicle-type plays now lost, like Hardicanute, the probable sequel to Edmund Ironside, and plays based on legend, such as the anonymous True Chronicle History of King Leir and his three daughters, c. 1587, [95] and Anthony Munday's two plays on Robin Hood, The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntington and The Death of Robert Earl of Huntington.

Late 16th and early 17th century 'Roman history' plays—English plays based on episodes in Virgil, Livy, Tacitus, Sallust, and Plutarch—were, to varying degrees, successful on stage from the late 1580s to the 1630s. Their appeal lay partly in their exotic spectacle, partly in their unfamiliar plots, partly in the way they could explore topical themes safely detached from an English context. In Appius and Virginia (c. 1626), for example, John Webster added a non-historical episode (the only one in the play) about the starvation of Roman troops in the field by the neglect of the home authorities, to express his rage at the abandonment and death by starvation of the English army in the Low Countries in 1624–25. [96] Dangerous themes such as rebellion and tyrannicide, ancient freedoms versus authoritarian rule, civic duty versus private ambition, could be treated more safely through Roman history, as Shakespeare treated them in Julius Caesar. [97] Character and moral values (especially 'Roman values') could be explored outside an inhibiting Christian framework.

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and his pseudo-historical Titus Andronicus were among the more successful and influential of Roman history plays. [98] [99] [100] [59] Among the less successful was Jonson's Sejanus His Fall, the 1604 performance of which at the Globe was "hissed off the stage". [101] Jonson, misunderstanding the genre, had "confined himself to the dramatization of recorded fact, and refused to introduce anything for which he did not have historical warrant", thus failing to construct a satisfactory plot. [102] According to Park Honan, Shakespeare's own later Roman work, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus, carefully avoided "Sejanus ' s clotted style, lack of irony, and grinding moral emphasis". [103]

  • The above tables exclude Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (composed c. 1589, revised c. 1593), which is not closely based on Roman history or legend but which, it has been suggested, may have been written in reply to Marlowe's Dido, Queene of Carthage, Marlowe's play presenting an idealised picture of Rome's origins, Shakespeare's "a terrible picture of Rome's end, collapsing into moral anarchy". [110]

"The Wars of the Roses" is a phrase used to describe the civil wars in England between the Lancastrian and Yorkist dynasties. Some of the events of these wars were dramatised by Shakespeare in the history plays Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, Henry V, Henry VI, Part 1, Henry VI, Part 2, Henry VI, Part 3, and Richard III. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries there have been numerous stage performances, including:

  1. The first tetralogy (Henry VI parts 1 to 3 and Richard III) as a cycle
  2. The second tetralogy (Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2 and Henry V) as a cycle (which has also been referred to as the Henriad) and
  3. The entire eight plays in historical order (the second tetralogy followed by the first tetralogy) as a cycle. Where this full cycle is performed, as by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1964, the name The Wars of the Roses has often been used for the cycle as a whole.
  4. A 10-play history cycle, which began with the newly attributed Edward III, the anonymous Thomas of Woodstock, and then the eight plays from Richard II to Richard III, was performed by Pacific Repertory Theatre under the title, Royal Blood, a phrase used throughout the works. The entire series, staged over four consecutive seasons from 2001 to 2004, was directed by PacRep founder and Artistic Director Stephen Moorer. [68]
  5. A conflation of the eight plays by Tom Wright and Benedict Andrews, under the title The War of the Roses, was performed by the Sydney Theatre Company in 2009. [111]

The tetralogies have been filmed for television five times, twice as the entire cycle:

  1. for the 1960 UK serial An Age of Kings directed by Michael Hayes. Featuring David William as Richard II, Tom Fleming as Henry IV, Robert Hardy as Henry V, Terry Scully as Henry VI, Paul Daneman as Richard III, Julian Glover as Edward IV, Mary Morris as Queen Margaret, Judi Dench as Princess Catherine, Eileen Atkins as Joan la Pucelle, Frank Pettingell as Falstaff, William Squire as The Chorus and Justice Shallow, and, Sean Connery as Hotspur.
  2. for the 1965 UK serial The Wars of the Roses, based on the RSC's 1964 staging of the Second Tetralogy, which condensed the Henry VI plays into two plays called Henry VI and Edward IV. adapted by John Barton and Peter Hall and directed by Hall. Featuring Ian Holm as Richard III, David Warner as Henry VI, Peggy Ashcroft as Margaret, Donald Sinden as York, Roy Dotrice as Edward and Jack Cade, Janet Suzman as Joan and Lady Anne and William Squire as Buckingham and Suffolk.
  3. Second Tetralogy filmed for the BBC Television Shakespeare in 1978/1979 directed by David Giles. Richard II was filmed as a stand-alone piece for the first season of the series, with the Henry IV plays and Henry V filmed as a trilogy for the second season. Featuring Derek Jacobi as Richard II, John Gielgud as John of Gaunt, Jon Finch as Henry IV, Anthony Quayle as Falstaff, David Gwillim as Henry V, Tim Pigott-Smith as Hotspur, Charles Gray as York, Wendy Hiller as the Duchess of Gloucester, Brenda Bruce as Mistress Quickly, and Michele Dotrice as Lady Percy.
  4. First Tetralogy filmed for the BBC Television Shakespeare in 1981 directed by Jane Howell, although the episodes didn't air until 1983. In the First Tetralogy, the plays are performed as if by a repertory theater company, with the same actors appearing in different parts in each play. Featuring Ron Cook as Richard III, Peter Benson as Henry VI, Brenda Blethyn as Joan, Bernard Hill as York, Julia Foster as Margaret, Brian Protheroe as Edward, Paul Jesson as Clarence, Mark Wing-Davey as Warwick, Frank Middlemass as Cardinal Beaufort, Trevor Peacock as Talbot and Jack Cade, Paul Chapman as Suffolk and Rivers, David Burke as Gloucester and Zoe Wanamaker as Lady Anne.
  5. for a straight-to-video filming, directly from the stage, of the English Shakespeare Company's 1987 production of "The Wars of the Roses" directed by Michael Bogdanov and Michael Pennington. Featuring Pennington as Richard II, Henry V, Buckingham, Jack Cade and Suffolk, Andrew Jarvis as Richard III, Hotspur and the Dauphin, Barry Stanton as Falstaff, The Duke of York and the Chorus in Henry V, Michael Cronin as Henry IV and the Earl of Warwick, Paul Brennan as Henry VI and Pistol, and June Watson as Queen Margaret and Mistress Quickly. The three Henry VI plays are condensed into two plays, bearing the subtitles Henry VI: House of Lancaster and Henry VI: House of York.
  6. Second Tetralogy filmed as The Hollow Crown for BBC2 in 2012 directed by Rupert Goold (Richard II), Richard Eyre (Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2) and Thea Sharrock (Henry V). Featuring Ben Whishaw as Richard II, Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt, Rory Kinnear as Henry Bolingbroke (in Richard II) and Jeremy Irons as Henry IV, Tom Hiddleston as Henry V, Simon Russell Beale as Falstaff, Joe Armstrong as Hotspur, and Julie Walters as Mistress Quickly. The first tetralogy was later adapted in 2016.

Many of the plays have also been filmed stand-alone, outside of the cycle at large. Famous examples include Henry V (1944), directed by and starring Laurence Olivier, and Henry V (1989), directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh Richard III (1955), directed by and starring Olivier, and Richard III (1995), directed by Richard Loncraine and starring Ian McKellen and Chimes at Midnight (1965) (also known as Falstaff), directed by and starring Orson Welles, combining Henry IV, Part I and Part II, with some scenes from Henry V.

All of England was now ruled by the kings of Wessex, now kings of all England. And the descendants of the Viking settlers accepted this.

However, Viking raids from the North continued. The English paid large sums of money for them to go away. This, of course, encouraged the Vikings to come back for more.

There were repeated attacks by Viking armies on East Anglia and the south of England between 980 and 1016. In that year Canute, King of Denmark defeated the Anglo-Saxon army of Edmund Ironside and made himself king of England. His son Hardicanute succeeded him, but on his death in 1042, his Anglo-Saxon half-brother Edward (the Confessor) became king.

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hardicanute

HARDICANUTE [more correctly Hardacnut ] (c. 1010–1042), son of Canute, king of England, by his wife Ælfgifu or Emma, was born about 1019. In the contest for the English crown which followed the death of Canute in 1035 the claims of Hardicanute were supported by Emma and her ally, Godwine, earl of the West Saxons, in opposition to those of Harold, Canute’s illegitimate son, who was backed by the Mercian earl Leofric and the chief men of the north. At a meeting of the witan at Oxford a compromise was ultimately arranged by which Harold was temporarily elected regent of all England, pending the final settlement of the question on the return of Hardicanute from Denmark. The compromise was strongly opposed by Godwine and Emma, who for a time forcibly held Wessex in Hardicanute’s behalf. But Harold’s party rapidly increased and early in 1037 he was definitely elected king. Emma was driven out and took refuge at Bruges. In 1039 Hardicanute joined her, and together they concerted an attack on England. But next year Harold died and Hardicanute peacefully succeeded. His short reign was marked by great oppression and cruelty. He caused the dead body of Harold to be dug up and thrown into a fen he exacted so heavy a geld for the support of his foreign fleet that great discontent was created throughout the kingdom, and in Worcestershire a general uprising took place against those sent to collect the tax, whereupon he burned the city of Worcester to the ground and devastated the surrounding country in 1041 he permitted Edwulf, earl of Northumbria, to be treacherously murdered after having granted him a safe-conduct. While “he stood at his drink” at the marriage feast of one of his flegns he was suddenly seized with a fit, from which he died a few days afterwards on the 8th of June 1042.

Egbert 802-839.

820 :- England’s southerly Kingdom, Wessex (Wets Saxons) under King Egbert (802-839) breaks the armed forces preeminence of Mercia (Angles) developing the powerbase to link England. The only staying Roman British garrison (Cornwall) is likewise brought under Wessex control in 825. Egbert is thought about the first king of all England. Egbert wed a French princess, none apart from Redburga, sis of Charlemagne and with her he sired the future king Ethelwulf.

Ethelwulf 839-858.

839 :- On the return journey he weds princess Judith, child of Charles the Bold, King of the Franks. Ethelwulf, formerly in 830 wed an English lady Osburga as well as they had four kids all coming to be Kings of England (Osburga died c. 850,) Ethelbald, Ethelburt, Ethelred 1st as well as Alfred (The Great).

"A Child’s History of England: Chapter 6"

CANUTE left three sons, by name SWEYN, HAROLD, and HARDICANUTE but
his Queen, Emma, once the Flower of Normandy, was the mother of
only Hardicanute. Canute had wished his dominions to be divided
between the three, and had wished Harold to have England but the
Saxon people in the South of England, headed by a nobleman with
great possessions, called the powerful EARL GODWIN (who is said to
have been originally a poor cow-boy), opposed this, and desired to
have, instead, either Hardicanute, or one of the two exiled Princes
who were over in Normandy. It seemed so certain that there would
be more bloodshed to settle this dispute, that many people left
their homes, and took refuge in the woods and swamps. Happily,
however, it was agreed to refer the whole question to a great
meeting at Oxford, which decided that Harold should have all the
country north of the Thames, with London for his capital city, and
that Hardicanute should have all the south. The quarrel was so
arranged and, as Hardicanute was in Denmark troubling himself very
little about anything but eating and getting drunk, his mother and
Earl Godwin governed the south for him.

They had hardly begun to do so, and the trembling people who had
hidden themselves were scarcely at home again, when Edward, the
elder of the two exiled Princes, came over from Normandy with a few
followers, to claim the English Crown. His mother Emma, however,
who only cared for her last son Hardicanute, instead of assisting
him, as he expected, opposed him so strongly with all her influence
that he was very soon glad to get safely back. His brother Alfred
was not so fortunate. Believing in an affectionate letter, written
some time afterwards to him and his brother, in his mother’s name
(but whether really with or without his mother’s knowledge is now
uncertain), he allowed himself to be tempted over to England, with
a good force of soldiers, and landing on the Kentish coast, and
being met and welcomed by Earl Godwin, proceeded into Surrey, as
far as the town of Guildford. Here, he and his men halted in the
evening to rest, having still the Earl in their company who had
ordered lodgings and good cheer for them. But, in the dead of the
night, when they were off their guard, being divided into small
parties sleeping soundly after a long march and a plentiful supper
in different houses, they were set upon by the King’s troops, and
taken prisoners. Next morning they were drawn out in a line, to
the number of six hundred men, and were barbarously tortured and
killed with the exception of every tenth man, who was sold into
slavery. As to the wretched Prince Alfred, he was stripped naked,
tied to a horse and sent away into the Isle of Ely, where his eyes
were torn out of his head, and where in a few days he miserably
died. I am not sure that the Earl had wilfully entrapped him, but
I suspect it strongly.

Harold was now King all over England, though it is doubtful whether
the Archbishop of Canterbury (the greater part of the priests were
Saxons, and not friendly to the Danes) ever consented to crown him.
Crowned or uncrowned, with the Archbishop’s leave or without it, he
was King for four years: after which short reign he died, and was
buried having never done much in life but go a hunting. He was
such a fast runner at this, his favourite sport, that the people
called him Harold Harefoot.

Hardicanute was then at Bruges, in Flanders, plotting, with his
mother (who had gone over there after the cruel murder of Prince
Alfred), for the invasion of England. The Danes and Saxons,
finding themselves without a King, and dreading new disputes, made
common cause, and joined in inviting him to occupy the Throne. He
consented, and soon troubled them enough for he brought over
numbers of Danes, and taxed the people so insupportably to enrich
those greedy favourites that there were many insurrections,
especially one at Worcester, where the citizens rose and killed his
tax-collectors in revenge for which he burned their city. He was
a brutal King, whose first public act was to order the dead body of
poor Harold Harefoot to be dug up, beheaded, and thrown into the
river. His end was worthy of such a beginning. He fell down
drunk, with a goblet of wine in his hand, at a wedding-feast at
Lambeth, given in honour of the marriage of his standard-bearer, a
Dane named TOWED THE PROUD. And he never spoke again.

EDWARD, afterwards called by the monks THE CONFESSOR, succeeded
and his first act was to oblige his mother Emma, who had favoured
him so little, to retire into the country where she died some ten
years afterwards. He was the exiled prince whose brother Alfred
had been so foully killed. He had been invited over from Normandy
by Hardicanute, in the course of his short reign of two years, and
had been handsomely treated at court. His cause was now favoured
by the powerful Earl Godwin, and he was soon made King. This Earl
had been suspected by the people, ever since Prince Alfred’s cruel
death he had even been tried in the last reign for the Prince’s
murder, but had been pronounced not guilty chiefly, as it was
supposed, because of a present he had made to the swinish King, of
a gilded ship with a figure-head of solid gold, and a crew of
eighty splendidly armed men. It was his interest to help the new
King with his power, if the new King would help him against the
popular distrust and hatred. So they made a bargain. Edward the
Confessor got the Throne. The Earl got more power and more land,
and his daughter Editha was made queen for it was a part of their
compact that the King should take her for his wife.

But, although she was a gentle lady, in all things worthy to be
beloved – good, beautiful, sensible, and kind – the King from the
first neglected her. Her father and her six proud brothers,
resenting this cold treatment, harassed the King greatly by
exerting all their power to make him unpopular. Having lived so
long in Normandy, he preferred the Normans to the English. He made
a Norman Archbishop, and Norman Bishops his great officers and
favourites were all Normans he introduced the Norman fashions and
the Norman language in imitation of the state custom of Normandy,
he attached a great seal to his state documents, instead of merely
marking them, as the Saxon Kings had done, with the sign of the
cross – just as poor people who have never been taught to write,
now make the same mark for their names. All this, the powerful
Earl Godwin and his six proud sons represented to the people as
disfavour shown towards the English and thus they daily increased
their own power, and daily diminished the power of the King.

They were greatly helped by an event that occurred when he had
reigned eight years. Eustace, Earl of Bologne, who had married the
King’s sister, came to England on a visit. After staying at the
court some time, he set forth, with his numerous train of
attendants, to return home. They were to embark at Dover.
Entering that peaceful town in armour, they took possession of the
best houses, and noisily demanded to be lodged and entertained
without payment. One of the bold men of Dover, who would not
endure to have these domineering strangers jingling their heavy
swords and iron corselets up and down his house, eating his meat
and drinking his strong liquor, stood in his doorway and refused
admission to the first armed man who came there. The armed man
drew, and wounded him. The man of Dover struck the armed man dead.
Intelligence of what he had done, spreading through the streets to
where the Count Eustace and his men were standing by their horses,
bridle in hand, they passionately mounted, galloped to the house,
surrounded it, forced their way in (the doors and windows being
closed when they came up), and killed the man of Dover at his own
fireside. They then clattered through the streets, cutting down
and riding over men, women, and children. This did not last long,
you may believe. The men of Dover set upon them with great fury,
killed nineteen of the foreigners, wounded many more, and,
blockading the road to the port so that they should not embark,
beat them out of the town by the way they had come. Hereupon,
Count Eustace rides as hard as man can ride to Gloucester, where
Edward is, surrounded by Norman monks and Norman lords. ‘Justice!’
cries the Count, ‘upon the men of Dover, who have set upon and
slain my people!’ The King sends immediately for the powerful Earl
Godwin, who happens to be near reminds him that Dover is under his
government and orders him to repair to Dover and do military
execution on the inhabitants. ‘It does not become you,’ says the
proud Earl in reply, ‘to condemn without a hearing those whom you
have sworn to protect. I will not do it.’

The King, therefore, summoned the Earl, on pain of banishment and
loss of his titles and property, to appear before the court to
answer this disobedience. The Earl refused to appear. He, his
eldest son Harold, and his second son Sweyn, hastily raised as many
fighting men as their utmost power could collect, and demanded to
have Count Eustace and his followers surrendered to the justice of
the country. The King, in his turn, refused to give them up, and
raised a strong force. After some treaty and delay, the troops of
the great Earl and his sons began to fall off. The Earl, with a
part of his family and abundance of treasure, sailed to Flanders
Harold escaped to Ireland and the power of the great family was
for that time gone in England. But, the people did not forget

Then, Edward the Confessor, with the true meanness of a mean
spirit, visited his dislike of the once powerful father and sons
upon the helpless daughter and sister, his unoffending wife, whom
all who saw her (her husband and his monks excepted) loved. He
seized rapaciously upon her fortune and her jewels, and allowing
her only one attendant, confined her in a gloomy convent, of which
a sister of his – no doubt an unpleasant lady after his own heart –
was abbess or jailer.

Having got Earl Godwin and his six sons well out of his way, the
King favoured the Normans more than ever. He invited over WILLIAM,
DUKE OF NORMANDY, the son of that Duke who had received him and his
murdered brother long ago, and of a peasant girl, a tanner’s
daughter, with whom that Duke had fallen in love for her beauty as
he saw her washing clothes in a brook. William, who was a great
warrior, with a passion for fine horses, dogs, and arms, accepted
the invitation and the Normans in England, finding themselves more
numerous than ever when he arrived with his retinue, and held in
still greater honour at court than before, became more and more
haughty towards the people, and were more and more disliked by

The old Earl Godwin, though he was abroad, knew well how the people
felt for, with part of the treasure he had carried away with him,
he kept spies and agents in his pay all over England.

Accordingly, he thought the time was come for fitting out a great
expedition against the Norman-loving King. With it, he sailed to
the Isle of Wight, where he was joined by his son Harold, the most
gallant and brave of all his family. And so the father and son
came sailing up the Thames to Southwark great numbers of the
people declaring for them, and shouting for the English Earl and
the English Harold, against the Norman favourites!

The King was at first as blind and stubborn as kings usually have
been whensoever they have been in the hands of monks. But the
people rallied so thickly round the old Earl and his son, and the
old Earl was so steady in demanding without bloodshed the
restoration of himself and his family to their rights, that at last
the court took the alarm. The Norman Archbishop of Canterbury, and
the Norman Bishop of London, surrounded by their retainers, fought
their way out of London, and escaped from Essex to France in a
fishing-boat. The other Norman favourites dispersed in all
directions. The old Earl and his sons (except Sweyn, who had
committed crimes against the law) were restored to their
possessions and dignities. Editha, the virtuous and lovely Queen
of the insensible King, was triumphantly released from her prison,
the convent, and once more sat in her chair of state, arrayed in
the jewels of which, when she had no champion to support her
rights, her cold-blooded husband had deprived her.

The old Earl Godwin did not long enjoy his restored fortune. He
fell down in a fit at the King’s table, and died upon the third day
afterwards. Harold succeeded to his power, and to a far higher
place in the attachment of the people than his father had ever
held. By his valour he subdued the King’s enemies in many bloody
fights. He was vigorous against rebels in Scotland – this was the
time when Macbeth slew Duncan, upon which event our English
Shakespeare, hundreds of years afterwards, wrote his great tragedy
and he killed the restless Welsh King GRIFFITH, and brought his
head to England.

What Harold was doing at sea, when he was driven on the French
coast by a tempest, is not at all certain nor does it at all
matter. That his ship was forced by a storm on that shore, and
that he was taken prisoner, there is no doubt. In those barbarous
days, all shipwrecked strangers were taken prisoners, and obliged
to pay ransom. So, a certain Count Guy, who was the Lord of
Ponthieu where Harold’s disaster happened, seized him, instead of
relieving him like a hospitable and Christian lord as he ought to
have done, and expected to make a very good thing of it.

But Harold sent off immediately to Duke William of Normandy,
complaining of this treatment and the Duke no sooner heard of it
than he ordered Harold to be escorted to the ancient town of Rouen,
where he then was, and where he received him as an honoured guest.
Now, some writers tell us that Edward the Confessor, who was by
this time old and had no children, had made a will, appointing Duke
William of Normandy his successor, and had informed the Duke of his
having done so. There is no doubt that he was anxious about his
successor because he had even invited over, from abroad, EDWARD
THE OUTLAW, a son of Ironside, who had come to England with his
wife and three children, but whom the King had strangely refused to
see when he did come, and who had died in London suddenly (princes
were terribly liable to sudden death in those days), and had been
buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral. The King might possibly have made
such a will or, having always been fond of the Normans, he might
have encouraged Norman William to aspire to the English crown, by
something that he said to him when he was staying at the English
court. But, certainly William did now aspire to it and knowing
that Harold would be a powerful rival, he called together a great
assembly of his nobles, offered Harold his daughter ADELE in
marriage, informed him that he meant on King Edward’s death to
claim the English crown as his own inheritance, and required Harold
then and there to swear to aid him. Harold, being in the Duke’s
power, took this oath upon the Missal, or Prayer-book. It is a
good example of the superstitions of the monks, that this Missal,
instead of being placed upon a table, was placed upon a tub which,
when Harold had sworn, was uncovered, and shown to be full of dead
men’s bones – bones, as the monks pretended, of saints. This was
supposed to make Harold’s oath a great deal more impressive and
binding. As if the great name of the Creator of Heaven and earth
could be made more solemn by a knuckle-bone, or a double-tooth, or
a finger-nail, of Dunstan!

Within a week or two after Harold’s return to England, the dreary
old Confessor was found to be dying. After wandering in his mind
like a very weak old man, he died. As he had put himself entirely
in the hands of the monks when he was alive, they praised him
lustily when he was dead. They had gone so far, already, as to
persuade him that he could work miracles and had brought people
afflicted with a bad disorder of the skin, to him, to be touched
and cured. This was called ‘touching for the King’s Evil,’ which
afterwards became a royal custom. You know, however, Who really
touched the sick, and healed them and you know His sacred name is
not among the dusty line of human kings.


Harthacanute (Canute the Hardy, sometimes Hardicanute, Hardecanute Danish: Hardeknud) (1018 – 8 June 1042) was King of Denmark from 1035 to 1042 and England from 1040 to 1042. He was the only son of Canute the Great and Emma of Normandy.

He followed his father as King of Denmark in 1035, becoming Canute III. Fighting with Magnus I of Norway stopped him from sailing to England to take up his throne. His older, illegitimate half-brother, Harold Harefoot, became regent of England.

Harold took the English crown for himself in 1037. After Harthacanute had settled the situation in Scandinavia he prepared an invasion of England to take over his kingdom. Harold died, and Harthacanute was able to take back his throne peacefully.

Harthacanute was a harsh and unpopular ruler. To pay for his ships, he greatly increased the rate of taxation. In 1041, the people of Worcester killed two of Harthacanute's men who had been collecting the tax. Harthacanute burned the city. The story of Lady Godiva riding naked through the streets of Coventry to persuade the local earl to lower taxes, may come from the reign of Harthacanute. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says of him: "He never accomplished anything kingly for as long as he ruled".

In 1041, Harthacanute asked his half-brother Edward the Confessor (his mother Emma's son by Ethelred the Unready) back from exile in Normandy to become a member of his household, and probably made Edward his heir. Harthacanute was unmarried and had no children. On 8 June 1042, he died at Lambeth— he "died as he stood at his drink, and he suddenly fell to the earth". He was buried at Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire. Edward became the new king.

8. Canute's Government of England

There are not handed down many reports from England itself from Canute's reign - which we must believe indicates that he was a competent and authoritative ruler, who did not allow small problems to become big. He confirmed Edgar's laws.

Thitmar says that in 1018: "The son of King Svein, and himself also the king of Angles, put to sword - thanks God - the crew of thirty ships of pirates and thus he, who had earlier been an invader together with his father, and a sworn destroyer of the country, now became its sole defender."

As a prince without land, he had crossed the sea as the leader of an army, which consisted of men, who had been enlisted in his brother's kingdom, and adventurers from all over Scandinavia. He had wrested large areas from the original English royal lineage, and now he was in possession of the whole kingdom. His only right was the sword and the Knytlings' ancient demand that England belonged to them.

Canute listening to the chanting of the monks of Ely monastery. According to the monastery's own history, Canute had the habit of visiting the monastery at Candlemas to celebrate the day of Jesus' Presentation in the Temple. Canute was going to Ely by boat, and when they came near land, they heard the sound of chanting of monks. He urged the others in the boat to sing along with him, as he on the spot composed a song:

Merry sang the monks in Ely
When Cnut the king rowed by
'Row, men, near the land
And let us hear these monks sing.

In the 1800's Dean of Ely Charles William Stubbs composed these lines into a longer hymn - Old drawing of unknown origin found in A Clerk of Oxford.

Viking attacks and civil wars had ceased. Not since King Edgar's time, Englishmen could enjoy such peace and security. But the English pride had received a wound, which for many years thereafter refused to heal. We must believe that many Englishmen had a deep and heartfelt hatred for the new Danish rulers.

Canute built chapels in the places, where he had had bloody battles with the English. He founded a monastery in honor of St. Edmund, who some hundred years earlier in a cruel manner had been killed by Regnar Lodbrog's sons. In 1023 he ordered the remains of Archbishop of Canterbury, Elfeg - who was killed by Thorkell the Tall's men during many torments - with great solemnity to be taken to Canterbury.

Henry of Huntingdon is the earliest source of a popular tale: " - that with the greatest vigor he commanded that his chair should be set on the shore when the tide began to rise. And then he spoke to the rising sea saying "You are part of my dominion, and the ground that I am seated upon is mine, nor has anyone disobeyed my orders with impunity. Therefore, I order you not to rise onto my land, nor to wet the clothes or body of your Lord". But the sea carried on rising as usual without any reverence for his person and soaked his feet and legs. Then he moved away and said: "All the inhabitants of the world should know that the power of kings is vain and trivial and that none is worthy the name of king but He whose command the heaven, earth and sea obey by eternal laws".

Canute commanding the sea not to make his feet wet. Victorian drawing, probably drawn by Raphael Tuck.

In 1026 Canute went on a pilgrimage to Rome accompanied by the Abbot of the British Tavistock Abbey. He traveled via Rouen through France to Italy. In Rome, he attended Emperor Konrad 2.'s coronation and met King Rudolph of Burgundy. Of both these, he wrought out freedoms and reliefs for Danes and Englishmen, who traveled through their countries to Rome. Of the Pope, he got relief from the high taxes, which the English archbishops hitherto had had to pay for the pallium, which is a narrow band of "three fingers width", woven from white lamb's wool, which bishops carry over their shoulders.

It may be true that Canute made England his home after a personal choice, even after other countries had been added to his kingdom, but it is more likely that he believed that his presence in Wessex was necessary to maintain power in the country.

During the first decade of his rule in England, he was, as far as we know, only out of the country twice and both times in the winter months, when the risk of a successful uprising was at least. The first recorded absence was in the winter of 1019-1020, where he visited Denmark Canute returned in time for the Easter celebrations. Anglo Saxon Chronicle tells of another return from Denmark in 1023, as his return was earlier than the move of the Holy Saint Alpheges remains in June, this absence must also have been during the winter.

English coin minted by King Canute. He has a rather large nose, as in the description of him in Knytlinge Saga. Throughout Canute's reign, the coins were of good quality and grade, which indicates good and accountable governance. Wikipedia - photographed in the British Museum by PHCOM.

In 1018 or perhaps late in 1017 Canute dissolved his Scandinavian army. As payment for their efforts, he collected 82,500 pounds of silver, the largest Danegeld that had ever been levied in England.

However, the crews of forty ships remained in the royal service, which represented a force of between three and four thousand men. These had by all accounts formed the core of his new elite corps, Tingliden or the Tingamens' army.

The Corps of housecarles or tinga-men were organized as a military fraternity, in which the king was the most important member. The relations between the members was governed by a law that Saxo calls "hirdskråen", others call it Vederloven. Saxo tells in great detail about Tingliden's "hirdskrå". In many ways, Tingliden reminds of the Jomsvikings' fraternity, which was also regulated by laws. It is easy to imagine that Thorkil the Tall has assisted Canute in formulation of the law.

King Canute in old English manuscript. Found on A Clerk of Oxford.

The laws aimed to instill proper behavior in the royal hird, creating order in the corps and to promote a spirit of community among its members to ensure unity in battle. When the warriors were invited to the king's table, they were placed after their bravery, warlike achievements or their lineage's prestige. To be moved to a lower place at the table, farther away from the king, was considered a disgrace. We are told that in addition to the daily meals warriors received a monthly salary. The service was not permanent but could be terminated New Year's Day. All disputes between members mutually were judged by an assembly of warriors in the presence of the king. Members who were guilty of minor offenses such as not care for a colleague's horse properly were assigned lower seats at the royal table. If someone three times had been convicted of such offences, he got the last and lowest place, where there was no one to talk to during the meal, and the other warriors could throw their gnawed bones against him if they wanted. Whoever killed a comrade should lose his head or go into exile. Treason was punished with death and confiscation of property.

The saga says that the corps of housecarles "had been selected from many countries, but most from those that spoke the Danish tongue" , which is the Scandinavian countries.

England was during the later years of Ethelred's government in practice divided into four major jurisdictions, there were Wessex, Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia, and in this respect, Canute preserved status quo. As mentioned before, he ruled himself the most venerable English realm that was Wessex, Alfred the Great's homeland Erik Jarl controlled Northumbria, Thorkil the Tall East Anglia, and Eadric controlled briefly Mercia. Canute used very much Danes in his administration of England. In the many witness lists, there are roughly the same number of Scandinavian and English names, but the Scandinavian names are always at the top.

Motif from the Bayeux Tapestry - Housecarls defend themselves in close formation against Norman cavalry.
Huscarls (or Tingliden or the Tinga-mens' army) was an elite military organization of English-Danish warriors founded by King Canute. They served as guards and professional soldiers for the King of England until 1066. The Corps was supposedly built around a core of Jomsvikings, who earlier had come to England under Thorkil the Tall.
Harald Hardrada's Saga describes how the Norwegians were attacked by the Tinga-mens' cavalry at Stamford Bridge: "They were completely clad in armor, both themselves and their horses" However, in the subsequent Battle of Hastings against the Normans we do not hear anything about English cavalry."

In Canute's first year his main objective was ensuring permanence and stability in his new kingdom. He seems to have intended completely to destroy the house Alfred to the last male descendant which, however, failed.

After Edmund Ironside death, Edwy was the only one left of Ethelred's sons, he is said to have been Edmund's brother with the same mother and a promising young man. Evidently, Canute initially aimed to spare his life and ordered him to go into exile. But the young nobleman secretly returned to England and hid for a time in Tavistock Abbey. He was apparently discovered, and Canute ordered his death. Simeon of Durham reports that in 1017 King Canute outlawed " the Atheling Edwy the brother of king Eadmund, who was called King of the Churls"

Edmund Ironside had two sons with Aldgyth, Edward and Edmundwere. It is said that the brothers were sent to the king of the Slavs, who was instructed to deprive them of their lives. This particular king was Canute's uncle Boleslaw, the mighty Duke and later King of Poland. However, he felt pity for the poor children and failed to let them disappear as desired. In 1025, his son Mieczislav initiated a close corporation with King Stephen of Hungary. The brothers were then transferred to the Hungarian court, where they grew up.

The two most dangerous heirs were in two ways beyond his reach, namely Ethelred's sons with Emma, Alfred and Edward, partly because they stayed in Normandy and partly because they were protected by their mother Canute's queen.

October 13 – King Confessor

Saint, King of England, born in 1003 died January 5, 1066.

Statue of St. Edward the Confessor in St Alban’s Cathedral.

He was the son of Ethelred II and Emma, daughter of Duke Richard of Normandy, being thus half-brother to King Edmund Ironside, Ethelred’s son by his first wife, and to King Hardicanute, Emma’s son by her second marriage with Canute.

When hardly ten years old he was sent with his brother Alfred into Normandy to be brought up at the court of the duke his uncle, the Danes having gained the mastery in England. Thus he spent the best years of his life in exile, the crown having been settled by Canute, with Emma’s consent, upon his own offspring by her. Early misfortune thus taught Edward the folly of ambition, and he grew up in innocence, delighting chiefly in assisting at Mass and the church offices, and in association with religious, whilst not disdaining the pleasures of the chase, or recreations suited to his station. Upon Canute’s death in 1035 his illegitimate son, Harold, seized the throne, Hardicanute being then in Denmark, and Edward and his brother Alfred were persuaded to make an attempt to gain the crown, which resulted in the cruel death of Alfred who had fallen into Harold’s hands, whilst Edward was obliged to return to Normandy. On Hardicanute’s sudden death in 1042, Edward was called by acclamation to the throne at the age of about forty, being welcomed even by the Danish settlers owing to his gentle saintly character. His reign was one of almost unbroken peace, the threatened invasion of Canute’s son, Sweyn of Norway, being averted by the opportune attack on him of Sweyn of Denmark and the internal difficulties occasioned by the ambition of Earl Godwin and his sons being settled without bloodshed by Edward’s own gentleness and prudence. He undertook no wars except to repel an inroad of the Welsh, and to assist Malcom III of Scotland against Macbeth, the usurper of his throne. Being devoid of personal ambition, Edward’s one aim was the welfare of his people. He remitted the odious “Danegelt”, which had needlessly continued to be levied and though profuse in alms to the poor and for religious purposes, he made his own royal patrimony suffice without imposing taxes. Such was the contentment caused by “the good St. Edward’s laws”, that their enactment was repeatedly demanded by later generations, when they felt themselves oppressed.

The tomb of St. Edward the Confessor, which contains his incorrupt body. He is the only Saint buried in Westminster Abbey and one of the few that were not destroyed by Henry VIII.

Yielding to the entreaty of his nobles, he accepted as his consort the virtuous Editha, Earl Godwin’s daughter. Having, however, made a vow of chastity, he first required her agreement to live with him only as a sister. As he could not leave his kingdom without injury to his people, the making of a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s tomb, to which he had bound himself, was commuted by the pope into the rebuilding at Westminster of St. Peter’s abbey, the dedication of which took place but a week before his death, and in which he was buried. St. Edward was the first King of England to touch for the “king’s evil”, many sufferers from which disease were cured by him.

He was canonized by Alexander III in 1161. His feast is kept on the 13th of October, his incorrupt body having been solemnly translated on that day in 1163 by St. Thomas of Canterbury in the presence of King Henry II.

Watch the video: A CHILDS HISTORY OF ENGLAND: Charles Dickens - FULL AudioBook: Part 12 (August 2022).