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 Forgotten Heroes?

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Forgotten Heroes?   Thu 30 Mar 2017, 10:38

Every country has its standard list of great men (and only a few women in most cases) who, for complicated reasons not often directly to do with their actual impact, character or popularity during their lifetimes, have been elevated to almost mythical proportions in the imaginations of successive generations as that nation's "only" historical figures worth knowing at all. Together, they represent a small and seemingly extremely private club of individuals into whose inner sanctum others may present themselves as candidates for insertion but who will almost always fail in the attempt. Of course, being semi-mythical anyway in composition, this club is not at all sniffy about accepting characters incorrectly understood or perceived, characters who maybe in fact had more detrimental than beneficial impact in their day, and even characters - like our old friend "Robyn Hode" - who never actually existed at all.

Minette's mention of Owain Glyndŵr prompted me to wonder how many larger than life characters, some of no little historical importance at all, might have fallen victim over the years to this rather haphazard and "post-truth" approach to assembling a nation's national historical elite. Owain's candidature for membership was of course blotted from the beginning by his tedious habit during his lifetime of getting up the noses of the very chroniclers who initially vetted such applications for membership in what was by then becoming a very English elite, though it must be said that his brother in sentiment - William Wallace - has shown in recent years that even a belated submission to enter the room with the cosy chairs and big fireplace, and one moreover sponsored even by Mel Gibson, can still be entertained.

While sticking with the UK (while such a thing is still there to be discussed at all) I would like to nominate a now little known chief of the Home Counties (then called Catuvellauni territory), whose name has undergone several variations but who the traditional infinite number of scholars with typewriters nowadays have concluded should probably have been pronounced Caratacus all along. The lad's claim to occupy the wingback by the clubhouse library hearth, in my view, is that he in fact represents (two millennia before Dunkirk) that which Brits have since proven they excel at better than anyone else - dressing up ignominious defeat as laudable and resounding success, even if this definition of "success" really only thrives in those Home Counties Caratacus once lorded over. If Boudicca can warm her toes by that hearth I certainly cannot see why she shouldn't have Caratacus to peer at over her Times.

His career and high points (many of which outside of Britain would actually be considered low points in most people's eyes) can be found in Wiki and umpteen other web locations, so I won't bother to transcribe them here. However just because it's one of my favourite illustrations by one my favourite British eccentrics I will include this fantastic portrait by William Blake of our "hero" - all ready to step straight into an Asterix and Obelix adventure:

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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Thu 30 Mar 2017, 11:44

The point about ignominious defeat is surely rising from the ruins and surviving. Caratacus - was he the chap who was death came 7 years after capture,i n Rome? (No time to look him up, sorry,) I always supposed him to be a symbol of the eventual British survival despite Roman domination. My cockney taxi driver yesterday waxed long about  the survivors of his family after the arches of Bethnal Green were bombed when they had  had no other shelter. Darwin had a word or two about survivors also -not always the brightest nor most beautiful made it. Not quite the stuff of this thread but an observation on an aside made within it. Yep, I'm back! 
Regards to all,
P.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Thu 30 Mar 2017, 11:50

Ah, the "survival is just as valiant as victory" trope. A mainstay of my Irish education also - though compared to our neighbours we tend these days not to shout too much about it anymore.

However - much as I would like to - we cannot admit all survivors into the inner sanctum of our club (not enough cosy chairs to go round), only spectacular or prototypical examples such as Caratacus. Surely you have someone in mind who should be spared the black ball?
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Thu 30 Mar 2017, 12:56

Not sure that Wallace was ever forgotten about. Not in Scotland anyway.

Victorian era Wallace Monument near Stirling:

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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Thu 30 Mar 2017, 13:02

Mary Seacole who nursed wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War but was subsequently overlooked in favour of Florence Nightingale;



The same with the anti-slavery movement. The only name remembered is William Wilberforce, while others including Josiah Wedgewood, Thomas Clarkson, Charles & Lady Middleton, Hannah More Granville Sharp and James Ramsay are all but forgotten.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Thu 30 Mar 2017, 15:34



"In 1549 AD Robert Kett yeoman farmer of Wymondham was executed by hanging in this Castle after the defeat of the Norfolk Rebellion of which he was leader. In 1949 AD - four hundred years later - this Memorial was placed here by the citizens of Norwich in reparation and honour to a notable and courageous leader in the long struggle of the common people of England to escape from a servile life into the freedom of just conditions"

Plaque on the wall of Norwich Castle.


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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Thu 30 Mar 2017, 16:55

I think there has been an awakening of awareness of Mary Seacole in recent years.  I hadn't realised Josiah Wedgewood had been an anti-slaver - I suppose I should have known as I live in Staffordshire.

Off-topic slightly, welcome back Priscilla.
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Thu 30 Mar 2017, 19:04

Thank you, LiR. And no, nordmann, I seem to have forgotten all the hereoes who deserve the comfort of honoured  cosy club remembrance. My nominees would be unnamed persons who did mighty things often in desperate circumstances and which were usually bound up with an aspect of survival . There is something rather fine about unsung heroes Possibly I might come up with some word warriors. But currently my nominee  is downstarirs making me a decent cuppa.
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Fri 31 Mar 2017, 09:29

@Priscilla wrote:
And no, nordmann, I seem to have forgotten all the hereoes who deserve the comfort of honoured  cosy club remembrance. My nominees would be unnamed persons who did mighty things often in desperate circumstances and which were usually bound up with an aspect of survival . There is something rather fine about unsung heroes Possibly I might come up with some word warriors.



Let's have a nice bit of poetry to echo - sort of - Priscilla's words. The following probably reads to many these days as horribly sentimental musings from a bygone era - the Elegy was published in 1751 - but I have always liked it - the references to Hampden and Cromwell and Milton especially. Famous expressions come from this poem too - "the paths of glory lead but to the grave" and, of course, "the madding crowd's ignoble strife". I would normally apologise for quoting poetry at such length, but I won't today.



"ELEGY WRITTEN IN
A COUNTRY CHURCH-YARD"

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share,

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the Poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour:-
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault
If Memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.

Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbad: nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.

Yet e'en these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd Muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
E'en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires.

For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate, --

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;

'There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high.
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

'Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

'One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

'The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,-
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.'


The Epitaph
Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
And Melacholy marked him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Misery all he had, a tear,
He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
(There they alike in trembling hope repose),
The bosom of his Father and his God.

By Thomas Gray (1716-71).
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Fri 31 Mar 2017, 10:00

I like that poem too, Temperance (mind you I couldn't quote it) - and the Hardy novel it inspired "Far From the Madding Crowd".  In the 1968 ('67?) FFTMC film I was disappointed that Julie Christie (excellent actress mind you) didn't at least wear a dark wig when she played Bathsheba.  I don't have all of this thread committed to memory so apologies if this has already been mentioned but I guess I don't very often read the names of "those who fell" on the 1914-18 war memorials that abound - though I guess the fact that there is a memorial means they are remembered as a group so not completely forgotten.  The parents of a girl a year ahead of me at school met when she was a Polish citizen and he was an English prisoner of war in occupied Poland - I don't know the whole story but they could have got into trouble if the authorities had known of their friendship.  Their story will be remembered in their family at least.
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Fri 31 Mar 2017, 10:45

For many people the anonymous "Unknown Soldier" is already propped up at the mantelpiece in the club's reading room, leaning on one elbow, puffing nonchalantly on his Half Bent Dublin or his Sweet Afton stoggy, and looking politely but wryly around at the room's other occupants reclined in their wing-backs, many of whom he wonders should really be there at all.

Getting the thread back on track, and bearing in mind the new club members should really already have acquired historical recognition but still have been incomprehensibly voted by the public to remain outside the hallowed walls and gaze in through the bottle glassed panes, there is of course one glaring example - at least for the club's "English Chapter".

You would think that the man who founded "England", created the first centralised government, created the first foreign embassies, created the first properly codified English law structure, founded the first national library in England, created the ... well, you get the picture ... would in fact be president of the whole club by now. We'll leave aside the fact that he's the only guy we know of who succeeded himself as king twice, which in itself is a bloody good trick.

But while the club has a well known member who is barred from the kitchens on cake-baking day, a lad who for some reason gets the credit for "uniting" the land when in fact he introduced a rather ugly form of apartheid, his grandson who actually did the deed is now persona non grata not just at the club, but even these days when the "great" kings of England are paraded through children's imaginations in the classroom. He gets a mention, bless 'im, but rarely except as part of a litany of blokes and lassies, few of whom could even hope to emulate at least one of his innovations and even fewer of whom looked quite as dashing in the ould ermine.

Here's to Stan the Man (looking very messianic in this Look & Learn image)!



(Or is it Arthur Mees Children's Encyclopedia 1960 edition? - It certainly looks familiar!)
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Fri 31 Mar 2017, 11:28

Stan the Man was the first person I thought of when reading this thread - and no, not because I'm watching the new series of The Last Kingdom, great fun though it is -  but I could not bring myself to propose him at this particular time. (Searches sky for celestial saltire)

We have our version of nordmann's club though, situated in the chilly halls of that ridiculous excrescence, the Wallace Monument, and containing 15 busts of a rather eccentric collection of eminent Scots. The list is here, I must admit having had to google a few, they're not all household names. At least not in this household. That's the corollary, ex-heroes who linger on as unremembered wraiths.  

http://www.nationalwallacemonument.com/the-monument/the-hall-of-heroes/


Unsurprisingly they are all men but there is currently a project to choose a (yes, 'a') woman to join them. Here's the shortlist, chosen by committee of course.

http://www.nationalwallacemonument.com/scotlands-heroines/cast-your-vote/
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Sun 02 Apr 2017, 11:06

What the Scots are guilty of there, ferval, is a 19th century equivalent of the more modern TV polls such as "100 Best Britons" et al. which invariably produce such skewed results in favour of current "notables" that as barometers of national sentiment regarding its heroes rarely survive even their own publication as a credible and accurate snapshot, if they could even be said to be credible at all in their definition of what "notable" actually means.

The problem of course is one of anticipation - it is almost impossible to account for the logic, if there is one at all, whereby certain individuals over a very long time achieve and then retain an iconic status and elevation to the highest pinnacle of national familiarity with their name (rarely matched by an equal familiarity with their actual historical identity). Every country has its glaring examples of this - England's Richard the Lionheart (a man who in truth detested England to the extent that he refused to live in it and actually tried to sell it at one point), the USA's Paul Revere (whose "midnight ride" was rather shorter than generally understood and ended with him being quickly arrested - the British being better at relaying that "Paul Revere is coming!" than Paul was at doing the opposite), Ireland's Brian Boru (whose "defeat of the Danes" was conducted with as many Norsemen in his troops as opposed them at Clontarf, and whose ignoble death at that battle, along with that of all his immediate heirs, plunged the land into a cycle of warfare in which the "Danes" held as much urban power and influence as before), to name just a few.

While speaking of Ireland, and especially in the context of great military leaders, a notable omission from the inner pantheon is a lad called Rory O'Moore - the last genuine Irishman, one might say (the Duke of Wellington is cheating), to hold military and political control over the entire island of Ireland (confining English control to the cities of Dublin and Drogheda for several years) and whose Confederation, had it not been for the regicide and military emergence of a ruthless and effective "Model Army" in England, might well have ended up as a dynastic role model of European significance. Though initially labelled the "Catholic Confederation", it was their increasingly successful overtures to Anglicans which ultimately horrified the Parliamentarians, as the parliament's own records show, and probably explains just why the punitive expedition led by Cromwell to snuff them out was conducted with such viciousness and near-genocidal ferocity. Yet for all the talk of "high kings" etc in Irish history (a title claimed by many but never ever signifying the total control it suggests) this man, who might be said to have been Ireland's best example of such authority, is now largely forgotten, even by nationalists.
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Mon 03 Apr 2017, 20:18

Hardly grand national heroes, but on a local level I must put in a bid for the 83rd Regiment of Foot (the Royal Glasgow Volunteers), and in particular Captain William Campbell and Lieutenant James Robertson of the Grenadier Company (and their unlikely ally, the Reverend Francis Le Couteur, Rector of St Martin).  What 'everyone knows' about that Battle of Jersey is that on 6th January 1781 a French invasion force landed in Jersey, Channel Islands, led by Baron Philippe de Rullecourt.  The senior officers were out of the Island on Christmas leave, and command of the garrison therefore devolved to the 24-year old Major Francis Peirson of the 95th Foot.  Disobeying orders to surrender, issued by the Lieutenant Governor (Major Moses Corbet, then a prisoner of the French) Peirson led an attack on the French HQ established in the Market Place in the centre of St Helier.  The French were routed, but both commanders were killed.

However!  What is often forgotten is the fighting which took place elsewhere.  Whilst Perison was off being very dashing in all directions, Captain William Campbell, left in command of half of the 83rd Foot (the other half being in Guernsey, poor fellows!) received word of the French invasion: the invasion bells and alarm guns may have given him a clue, but Le Couteur (who seems to have been a man who took the idea of 'the Church Militant' rather too literally) had been approached by one of his flock who had been bayoneted by a French soldier in passing, and so quickly turned up at Fort Conway - with a pair of field guns in tow, naturally! - and urged Campbell to attack.  Campbell hesitated.  This has been characterised by some as weakness (C. Northcote Parkinson, in his novel The Guernseyman, even dismissed him as "elderly, pot-bellied and indecisive"), but contemporary sources suggest a distinguished soldier whose delay was down to a sensible unwillingness to make a move without reliable intelligence on the enemy's strength, etc.  Eventually off he and the 83rd went, picking up some of the Militia on the way, and appeared at Platte Rocque Battery, where the French had established a beach-head.  Campbell took overall command, holding the Militia in reserve, putting Le Couteur in charge of the artillery, providing flanking fire against the French with four companies of the Glasgow Volunteers and sending Lieutenant Robertson with the Grenadiers to make a frontal assault.  The French were utterly defeated (huzzah!), so Campbell delegated command to the good Rector (who promptly began bombarding the French fleet) whilst he took his troops off to St Helier, although in the event it was all over before they arrived.

The seven Grenadiers of the 83rd who were killed during the fight are buried in Grouville Parish churchyard and received an impressive monument, and in recent years a ceremony is held on the 6th January to commemorate them, and it receives a wreath on Remembrance Sunday.  Nevertheless, the Storming of Platte Rocque Battery and the part played by the the 83rd remains largely, and undeservedly, forgotten.  I am not saying that Peirson is not worthy of remembrance - far from it - and perhaps I have a sentimental soft spot for the 83rd, having grown up near Fort Conway (or Fort Henry, as it's now called) but even so I feel that Campbell and co are worthy of a place in the Heroes Club, or at least the local branch.
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Tue 04 Apr 2017, 04:57

I'm not sure about him being a hero - he might be more of a survivor which seemed to be rather condemned earlier in the thread - but for many years I thought Magellan had been the first man to circumnavigate the world and was rather miffed when I learnt he only made it half way round (if that), and that someone else had to take over and bring about 1/20th of the crew home.  I never remember his name but it is Juan Elcano.  I feel he should be given more of the glory for this, especially since I gather Magellan never intended to sail right round the world anyway.

I have been reading Bill Bryson's Road to Little Dribbling and he mentions a number of people whose achievements have been forgotten, though again they may not have been exactly heroic. I enjoyed reading about Thomas Holloway who was a 19th C philanthropist responsible for building The Royal Holloway College, but he said (apparently) it was his wife Jane who inspired it and it was just for women at the start and for a long time afterwards.  So one of my forgotten heroes is Jane Holloway, as well as Theodora, both women who inflouenced their husbands to "do good". There were lots of 19th century philanthropists that I admire.  (But tend to forget as soon as I read about them.)
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Tue 04 Apr 2017, 22:15

Caro,

"I'm not sure about him being a hero - he might be more of a survivor which seemed to be rather condemned earlier in the thread - but for many years I thought Magellan had been the first man to circumnavigate the world and was rather miffed when I learnt he only made it half way round (if that), and that someone else had to take over and bring about 1/20th of the crew home.  I never remember his name but it is Juan Elcano.  I feel he should be given more of the glory for this, especially since I gather Magellan never intended to sail right round the world anyway"

Yes it were great leaders with a vision. Me too was ilmpressed when I was young about the first circumnavigation and read about it in historical novels for younsters (I still remember the series "oud goud" (old gold)) And later read the translation in French from the 18th century in original French from one survivor Antonio Pigafetti. There if I remember it well I read for the first time that there was a gunner from Bruges among the survivors a certain Roeland van Brugge.
In the wiki they say Hans von Aachen (there you see Wikipedia...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Magellan


And about the Brugean, but it is in Dutch...
http://www.cultuurbibliotheek.be/activiteiten/marcel_van_brussel/lezing-van-brussel.pdf

And about the complication that they failed "one" day. And Pigafetti was blamed...
http://www.clubholandescr.com/node/1482


And I started a thread about another hero of mine, who did indeed the circumnavigation:
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net/t1008-isabel-barreto-first-woman-admiral-in-history


Kind regards from your friend Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Wed 05 Apr 2017, 11:40

Elcano certainly got a raw deal historically, I agree.

Not only did he circumnavigate the globe for the first time but the stretch between Timor and The Cape Of Good Hope, where he was finally forced into land, was at the time the longest distance ever covered under continuous sail, a huge achievement of almost superhuman proportions anyway but even more so when one considers the sick, undermanned and dispirited crew he commanded at that point - less than three dozen from the original 237 who had set out under Magellan, and by the time he finally reached Spain again, down to just 18 souls.

The reason we remember Magellan and not Elcano is probably down to Elcano himself, who insisted on his return that all credit for the feat of circumnavigation should be awarded posthumously to the expedition's original commander. However the Spanish king Charles I, at least, knew a hero when he saw one and awarded the Elcano family with a coat of arms containing the motto Primus circumdedisti me (You went around me first). In Basque territory Elcano, a native son, is rightly honoured with statuary - this being the most famous one in Getaria.

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PostSubject: Re: Forgotten Heroes?   Sat 22 Apr 2017, 17:18

@nordmann wrote:
Owain's candidature for membership was of course blotted from the beginning by his tedious habit during his lifetime of getting up the noses of the very chroniclers who initially vetted such applications for membership

The most nasally itched of those chroniclers being Thomas Walsingham (a monk at St Albans) who had little positive to say about Owain Glyndwr and whose offerings regarding him were seemingly sneezed out following a sniff of the pepper propaganda and so therefore need to be taken with a corresponding pinch of salt.

Walsingham uses pretty crude devices such as claiming that following a battle, female camp followers of Glyndwr obscenely mutilated the dead bodies of the Herefordshire militia. Walsingham states that this was ‘a crime unheard of down the ages’ - facinus saeculis inauditum - and yet this alleged incident is not reported by other chroniclers of the time or by subsequent historians. Walsingham also attributes the adverse weather conditions (rain, snow and hail) which Henry IV experienced during his 1402 campaign in Wales to Owain’s supposed ‘arte magica’ and also the ‘arte diabolica’ of his (alleged) allies the Friars Minor. When Glyndwr’s prisoner Edmund Mortimer (Henry IV’s cousin) married Owain’s daughter and went over to his side, Walsingham suggests that Mortimer’s character was suspect all along and was indeed compromised from birth having been born at midnight when the horses in his father’s stable were found up to their shins in pools of blood. And so on and so forth - you get the picture. In short Walsingham was a fully paid up spin doctor on behalf of Bolingbroke and a not very subtle one at that.

Another contemporary chronicler, Adam of Usk (a priest and a lawyer) offers a more balanced perspective and states that the harrying and ravaging of civilians by sword and fire ‘ferro et flamma’ was done by the forces of both Glyndwr and Henry IV during the conflict. Adam also mentions the parliament held at Machynlleth by Owen Glyndwr (something which Walsingham totally omits), although Usk is sceptical about its value. For example he marvels at Owain and his mountain men ‘montani’ for attempting to hold a parliament 'despite their miserable circumstances'  - sua eciam miseria - but dismisses the sessions as simulated and counterfeit affairs - symulat seu confyngit parliamenta. It also has to be appreciated that Adam spent a large part of the years of the Glyndwr rebellion away from Wales (and even out of Britain) being on the continent (mainly in Rome) between 1402 and 1408.
     
Worth mentioning also is Enguerran de Monstrelet a contemporary chronicler who, giving a French perspective, fails to mentions Owain Glyndwr by name at all by merely refers to him as ‘le prince de Gales’ and then only fleetingly with reference to a passing strategic expedient. This is despite writing extensively on the years in question 1400–1422. Monstrelet in fact uses the term ‘le prince de Gales’ more often in reference to Henry IV’s son Prince Hal. A French force did sail from Brittany and land at Milford, joining with Glyndwr at Tenby and together proceeded to Carmarthen and then marched across Glamorgan until confronted by Henry IV 'who came against them in great strength' - qui venoit contre eulx à grant puissance. There then took place a stand-off between the 2 armies across a valley - y avoit une grande valée entre les deux ostz - probably the Wye valley or the Severn valley. Monstrelet says the stand-off lasted for over a week during which time the Franco-Welsh force suffered shortages and hunger - furent fort traveillez de famine - and had great difficulty securing provisions - à grant peine povoient ilz recouvrer de vitaille - because of Henry’s blockade. It seems that some kind of deal was struck because both Henry and the French then simultaneously withdrew from the field and the French were allowed to return to France unmolested. Monstrelet concludes sheepishly that ‘ilz arrivèrent sans fortune a Saint-Pol’ and seemingly found the entire episode somewhat embarrassing. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that Glyndwr’s actual name would seem to be merely a footnote in French eyes.

Writing a generation later in the 1460s, John Hardyng, when describing the causes of the revolt, is quite sympathetic to Owain saying that ‘the lord Gray Ruthin did hym great wrong’. He adds ‘Owen wanne him selfe eche day great name of vasselrie, of gentyls and fame, that he them did for whiche to him they drewe, and became his men & and to him were full trewe’. In Hardyng’s writings one starts to see the beginning of the romanticisation of the story of Glyndwr.

What none of the contemporary chroniclers mentions, however, is the famed ‘Tripartite Indenture’ by which Owen Glyndwr, Henry Percy and Edmund Mortimer planned to partition southern Britain between themselves. By this plan Percy would get England north of the River Trent, the Mortimers would get England south of the Trent while Glyndwr would get all land west of the River Severn. This indenture (by adhering to natural boundaries rather than ethnic ones) has been cited as evidence that Owen Glyndwr was a not an ethnic fanatic as such but rather a civic nationalist who sought to reconcile the Welsh-speakers and the English-speakers in Wales under his rule. The holding of the Machynlleth parliament and the fact that he married his daughter to Edmund Mortimer are given as further proof of his aspiration to be an inclusive ruler. The problem with this interpretation, however, is that the Tripartite Indenture is only first mentioned (as far as I’m aware) by the Tudor historian Edward Halle writing nearly 150 years afterwards. And it was then, of course, most famously repeated 50 years later again by William Shakespeare in Henry IV Part 1, Act 3, Scene 1:

Bangor. The Archdeacon’s House. [Enter HOTSPUR, WORCESTER, MORTIMER, and GLENDOWER]

GLENDOWER - Come, here's the map: shall we divide our right
According to our threefold order ta'en?

MORTIMER - The archdeacon hath divided it
Into three limits very equally:
England, from Trent and Severn hitherto,
By south and east is to my part assign'd:
All westward, Wales beyond the Severn shore,
And all the fertile land within that bound,
To Owen Glendower: and, dear coz, to you
The remnant northward, lying off from Trent.
And our indentures tripartite are drawn;

It would certainly have been a brave and bold undertaking and an intriguing prospect. It seems that the more one looks at the era of the Owain Glyndwr the more questions arise.

One thing is certain though and that is that if there are forgotten heroes of that era then surely it must be some of the chroniclers and historians of that time. For example, the life of Adam of Usk is itself something of an adventure. From his promising early career as an up and coming canonical lawyer at Oxford, his joining with Bolingbroke’s army during the march on Chester in 1399, his role in the legal commission deposing Richard II (even personally meeting with the latter during his captivity in the Tower of London), his patronage by the new Henry IV and then his sudden fall from grace after being implicated in a rather silly incident involving the theft of a horse, his travels through Germany and Switzerland to Italy, his witnessing of the 1402 comet, his meetings with 2 popes in Rome and then being caught up in a revolt of the citizens of Rome against one of said popes, having to disguise himself as a sailor to escape, his journey to Avignon to meet a third pope, his onward journey though Valois France and on into Plantagenet France, his sojourn in Bruges, his meeting with Lancaster king-of-arms in Paris and agreeing to act to as a double agent within Glyndwr’s camp by 'pretending to be Owen’s man' - quod fingeret se hominem fore Oweni - and really living the role, risking his life being chased by Devon ships on the way to Wales, landing at Barmouth only to then be distrusted by Glyndwr and everyone else and finally after the rebellion was over ending his days in relative obscurity as a parish priest back home in Monmouthshire.
 
And take John Hardyng. Not only was he one of the first historical writers to write down his history in the English language (rather than in Latin) but also wrote his 429 page chronicle, starting with the mythical settlement of Albion at the time of Troy right through to the reign of King Edward IV, all in rhyming iambic pentameter. A truly heroic work of literature and indeed largely forgotten.
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