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 Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!

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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Tue 08 Sep 2015, 13:53

In 2015 things might not look so chipper ... with austerity, terrorist threats, a widening gulf between rich and poor, a struggling NHS, zero-hours contracts, environmental degradation … but hey, we still have the internet. So chin up, things could be worse, no?
Like perhaps in …

1940
Since September 1939 the basic rate of income tax had been at an eye-watering 7s 6d in the pound (37.5%). In January 1940 rationing started on food, soap, fuel and clothing, while the duty on luxuries like booze and cigarettes rose sharply (that's of course if you could get them). In April the Anglo-French military intervention in Norway had proved a costly disaster. Chamberlain had been forced to resign as PM and the country was now in the untried and possibly reckless hands of Churchill, who had been the principal exponent of the disastrous Norwegian campaign, and who was already nearly 66 years old. By May the German invasion of France had forced British troops back to Dunkirk from where they were mostly rescued, more by luck than anything else, but still with terrible losses. In July France fell, as already had Holland and Belgium; then the Channel Islands were occupied; Denmark and Norway capitulated; and Italy had declared war on the side of Germany. Every month dozens of British warships and merchant vessels were being sunk by the German navy, and by September the Battle of Britain was at its height. Invasion was thought to be imminent but the army had had to abandon nearly all its tanks and heavy guns in France. As a last line of resistance the Home Guard was formed but initially they could be given no rifles as all those available were desparately needed to re-equip the regular army after Dunkirk. The Luftwaffe bombed London, Sheffield, Coventry, Plymouth, Southampton and other cities throughout England. London was hit every night for 57 consecutive nights, and on 29 December more than 100,000 incendiary bombs struck the city causing the "second great fire of London". And any hope of direct US involvement was still over a year away.

1348
The Black Death reached England. The previous year it had struck in Italy, where it killed 40% of some cities' populations in a matter of weeks. Gradually it had spread through France, and by mid 1348 it reached the south coast of England. When it finally subsided by the end of 1350, some 30-50% of the population of England had been killed. With the shortage of labour, thousands of cattle and sheep had died untended in the fields, crops had been left unharvested, building works were halted and sometimes whole villages that had existed for hundreds of years had been permanently abandoned.

1066
The country faced invasion not once but twice: first in the north, where King Harold defeated a Norwegian army led by his brother Tostig and Harald Hardrada; and then shortly afterwards at Hastings, where he lost. But worse was to follow. In the wake of the Norman conquest the native Anglo-Saxon ruling class was almost entirely eliminated or exiled. All estates throughout the kingdom were legally seized (enfeoffed) so that all the land itself passed directly into the personal ownership of the new foreign king, who then distributed it among his henchmen, and who in turn ruled their local territories with extreme violence and impunity. Even the country's language was under threat.

...oooOOOooo...

So what other years were truly horrible for England? And I’m saying England because the same events that were disastrous for old Albion might have been celebrated with glee by neighbouring states ... but do feel free to suggest the worst years for Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France etc. Of course it should really be without the benefit of hindsight and so reflect how the population as a whole, at the time viewed their immediate prospects … I’m sure in 1348 no feudally-bonded farm labourer thought: "Well I’ve got a 1 in 3 chance of dying horribly as do all my family, but hey looking on the bright side, I should get to inherit at least one of my brothers' houses and get plenty more land too, and I should also be able to negotiate much better working conditions, so I’ll be much better off in the long run after all this is over … just so long as I survive of course!"
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Tue 08 Sep 2015, 18:55

AD 43 was bad - when the Romans arrived properly:


An army of four legions and approximately 20,000 auxiliaries, commanded by senator Aulus Plautius, landed at Richborough, Kent. The Romans met a large army of Britons, under the Catuvellauni kings Caratacus and his brother Togodumnus, on the River Medway, Kent. The Britons were defeated in a two-day battle, then again shortly afterwards on the Thames. Togodumnus died and Caratacus withdrew to more defensible terrain to the west.


But AD 410 was probably worse - when they left.

BY 410, troops were continually being withdrawn from Britain to help fight wars elsewhere in the empire. There was a general and persistent state of military crisis. With incursions on all fronts by Angles, Saxons, Picts and Scots, Britain appealed to emperor Honorius for help. Honorius wrote to them telling them to 'look to their own defences'. This act is often seen as marking the end of Roman Britain, although Roman institutions and their way of life endured.


The following message must have been greeted with some dismay:

You're on yer own now, mates. Sorry.

Signed Honorius.
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PostSubject: Re: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Tue 08 Sep 2015, 20:12

Sweet Sister Temperance,

what do you mean with: "You're on yer own now, mates. Sorry."

Kind regards from your friend, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Tue 08 Sep 2015, 20:35

According to Zosimus there was a letter sent by Honorius "to Britain" in which he told the Britons that now they would have to look to their own defences. This has been traditionally seen as the end of Roman involvement in Britain.

The only problem with this is that we know only of what Zosimus had purportedly written and, while the idea that a Roman emperor might send a letter to "all Britons" is so cute as to be credible in a sort of Peter Ustinov-playing-the-emperor way, there is another interpretation that Zosimus was referring to a dispatch to the garrison in Bruttium in Southern Italy (which is in context with the purported other surrounding passages from Zosimus).

But I agree with Temp - I can't see anyone in Britain in 410CE looking forward to 411CE, letter or no letter.
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PostSubject: Re: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Tue 08 Sep 2015, 21:09

Meles meles,

The annus horibilis of the Dutch republic: 1672
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rampjaar
And the turn over from the Republican Regents to the Orangists
and the Franco-Dutch war:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Dutch_War

"The song "Auprès de ma blonde" or "Le Prisonnier de Hollande" ("The Prisoner of Holland"), in which a French woman grieves for her beloved who is held prisoner by the Dutch, appeared during or soon after the Franco-Dutch War – reflecting the contemporary situation of French sailors and soldiers being imprisoned in the Netherlands"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aupr%C3%A8s_de_ma_blonde



Kind regards, Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Wed 09 Sep 2015, 08:00

I have learnt much of my "history" from rather dubious sources, one of which was the infamous novel about Restoration England, Forever Amber. I remember being shocked as I read of the terrible run of disasters that England - especially Londoners - suffered (but survived) during 1665, 1666 and - less talked about - 1667. I've adapted this from the book: I hope it isn't nonsense.

London by 1667 had grown as hysterical as a girl with the green-sickness. Her life in 1665 and 1666 had been too full of disaster and tragedy, too turbulent and too convulsive, and now she was uneasy, nervous, in a constant state of worry and fear. No prospect was too dismal, no possibility too remote - anything might happen, and probably would.

The new year had opened in utter misery, with thousands of homeless men, women and children living in tiny, tar-roofed shacks that had been thrown up on the sites of their former homes. Or they were crowded together in the few streets within the City walls which had been spared by the Fire, and forced to pay exorbitant rents. In a winter of unusual coldness and severity, sea-coal was so expensive that many could not afford it at all. Most of them believed, not unreasonably, that London would never be rebuilt and they had no faith in the present, saw no hope for the future.

An evil star seemed to be ascendant over England.

The national debt had never been greater, though the government was near bankruptcy. The war with the Dutch, begun so hopefully, was now turning into a disaster and was connected in the public mind with the unprecedented disasters of the past two years. The seamen of the Royal Navy were in mutiny, and men lay starving in the yard of the Naval Office. Parliament had refused to vote money to set out a fleet for that year and merchants would not be coerced again into supplying the ships without cash-in-hand.

Then, in 1667, came the icing on the cake. After Plague and Fire, came the threat of invasion - and then actual invasion, an incident we English just don't talk about. For six weeks the Dutch hovered off the English coast with a fleet of a hundred ships. The French joined in, adding twenty-five ships, and the French (despite secret negotiations with Charles II??) moved their army to Dunkirk. We had nothing to stop them should invasion come - and it did. The Dutch actually made it up the Medway and took Sheerness. A shameful, humiliating episode while the aristocratic idiots at Charles's corrupt court still danced and flirted and drank the nights away. God knows how England got away with it in 1667 but, as ever, we did. More details here:


http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Journals/Military_Affairs/13/4/The_Dutch_Invasion_of_England_in_1667*.html


When, in the grim months that followed the collapse of France in 1940, Great Britain faced her "shining hour," journalists frequent recounted the Isles' past brushes with invasion, from the times of the Romans, the sea-rovers, and the Normans through the projected Boulogne expedition of Napoleon. Yet nothing was said of a full-scale amphibious operation, undertaken by the Netherlands with ample success in the summer of 1667. It may be that a rankling national humiliation was no fit subject for treatment while Nazi barges were being assembled in North Sea ports; or perhaps no need was seen to stress the past hostile role of a present crippled ally. But whatever the journalists' reasons for ignoring the episode, the tale is worth the attention of the military historian, for the curious second Anglo-Dutch naval war of 1664‑67 was terminated soon after Dutch troops had been landed on English soil, and Dutch ships had destroyed major units of the Royal Navy in its own lair, in the "most serious defeat it has ever had in its home waters."

This paragraph from the article I find particularly shocking:

Contrasted with the feverish Dutch naval preparations, the overconfidence of the English is amply apparent from the testimony of their own writers. Agreement is general that governmental parsimony had resulted in the decommissioning of many first- and second-class vessels. The dispersion of the remainder for the convoy of merchantmen was effected in 1666 upon the counsel that "the Dutch might best be beaten by sending small squadrons abroad to interrupt and ruine their trade without which it would be impossible for them to continue the Warr or support themselves in Peace." The disaffection of the English seamen was general.

Our Seamen, whom no danger's shape could fight,

Unpaid refuse to mount their ships, for spite:

Or to their fellows swim, on board the Dutch,

Who show the tempting metal in their clutch.


It was said that the English prisoners even refused to be repatriated, preferring to take service with the Dutch, whose lure was "dollars, not tickets," as Pepys put it. Unpaid for the campaigns of 1666, merchants were hesitant to fit out new warships; while the few dispersed men-of‑war in the river were but partially manned. Confident that no sea conflict would take place, Charles sent out but two small squadrons for summer duty in 1667. "Culpable unpreparedness" aptly describes the situation of England in that year.
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PostSubject: Re: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Wed 09 Sep 2015, 12:38

I remember learning (in brief admittedly) about the Dutch fleet sailing up the Medway when I was doing A level history at evening classes.  I do remember our teacher saying that the Dutch were very unpopular in England at the time, citing reasons such as the Dutch having a reasonable standard of living for the time, even the not so rich ones partly a result of wealth flowing into the Netherlands the trans-shipping of goods across Europe that started in rivers that debouched in the Netherlands and of course there were Dutch engineers who overlooked some of the draining of the fens in East Anglia. I'm sure there's more to it than that.  I wondered if sayings such as "it was all double Dutch to me" for wording one cannot understand and "If Joe Bloggs is a good singer then I'm a Dutch woman" dated from those times.
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PostSubject: Re: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Wed 09 Sep 2015, 13:25

@LadyinRetirement wrote:
I remember learning (in brief admittedly) about the Dutch fleet sailing up the Medway when I was doing A level history at evening classes.  I do remember our teacher saying that the Dutch were very unpopular in England at the time, citing reasons such as the Dutch having a reasonable standard of living for the time, even the not so rich ones partly a result of wealth flowing into the Netherlands the trans-shipping of goods across Europe that started in rivers that debouched in the Netherlands and of course there were Dutch engineers who overlooked some of the draining of the fens in East Anglia. I'm sure there's more to it than that.  I wondered if sayings such as "it was all double Dutch to me" for wording one cannot understand and "If Joe Bloggs is a good singer then I'm a Dutch woman" dated from those times.


Never thought of that, LiR, but you are absolutely right. Found this info on tinternet:


Double Dutch

Meaning

Nonsense; gibberish - a language one cannot understand.

Origin

There are a host of phrases in English that include the word 'Dutch'; that's hardly surprising as The Netherlands is just a few miles across the sea from England. We don't have anything like as many expressions that include 'French', so why the interest in 'Dutch'? Two reasons: trade and war.

Both England and Holland (which is what most people call The Netherlands), have a vigorous and wide-ranging maritime trading tradition that dates back to the 16th century. England imported many commodities from Holland and gave them 'Dutch' names. The first of these imports was 'Dutch sauce', which we now call Hollandaise. Claudius Hollyband referred to this in the French Schoole Maister, 1573:


Will you eate of a Pike with a high dutche sauce?

Many other examples followed:


Dutch cheese - first used in 1700.
Dutch barn - 1742.
Dutch hoe - 1742.
Dutch oven - 1769.

The Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th and 18th centuries were acrimonious even by the usual standards of war. Following the conflicts the English came to hold the Dutch in very low regard and as a consequence there are numerous English phrases which portray them in an unflattering light, often as skinflints or drunkards. The common strand in all of these disparaging 'Dutch' expressions is that anything Dutch is the opposite of what it ought to be. Examples of these expressions are:


Dutch bargain - a bargain made when one is debilitated by drink - first recorded in 1654.
Dutch defence - a legal defence in which the defendant seeks clemency by deceitfully betraying others - 1749.
Dutch comfort - cold comfort; only good because things could have been worse - 1796.
Dutch metal/Dutch gold - a cheap alloy resembling gold - 1825.
Dutch courage - brash bravery induced by drink - 1826.
Dutch treat - no treat as such; each person pays for their own expenses - 1887.

Added to that list is 'double Dutch'. The Anglo-Dutch wars were a very long time ago and we are all friends now, but at this point we can introduce another reason for the English to have held on so long to hostile stereotyping of the Dutch, that is, the link with the UK's 20th century military rivals, the Germans. 'Dutch' was originally the generic name for both Germans and, as they were formally called, Hollanders. High Dutch was the language of southern Germany and Low Dutch the language of The Netherlands.

Double Dutch is in fact a synonym for High Dutch and as such is a slur on the Germans rather than the Dutch, although the distinction may not have been apparent to the average 18th century English sailor. Charles Dibdin was the first to allude to the incomprehensibility of the language, in Collected Songs, 1790:


Why, I heard our good chaplain palaver one day,
About souls, heaven, mercy and such;
And, my timbers! what lingo he'd coil and belay,-
Why, 'twas just all as one as High Dutch.


PS Wandered off-topic a bit, but thought LiR's point was interesting.
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PostSubject: Re: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Wed 09 Sep 2015, 17:18

Oh, your sleuthing has turned up interesting data, Temperance.  I suppose a "Dutch treat" could be the origin of "going Dutch" where a male and female on a date contribute equally.  In some ways, if the date is just a friend "going Dutch" avoids being under any obligation to anyone though some men do like to pay on a date (sorry I'm making it sound like I am the oldest swinger in town - definitely not).  I always thought "Dutch courage" came from Dutch beer (but then I used to think a certain nursery rhyme went "Diddle diddle dumpling mice and John").
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PostSubject: Re: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Sat 12 Sep 2015, 09:29

I always thought 'Dutch courage' came from Dutch gin, jenever (meaning juniper - the distinctive flavouring) which became popular in England in the Reign of William of Orange, although it is claimed that it was first introduced as early as the late 16th century by soldiers returning from the Dutch-Spanish wars (in which England had been allied with the Dutch).
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PostSubject: Re: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Sat 12 Sep 2015, 09:40

If 1066 was a bad year, then 1069/70 was worse ... especially if you lived in the northern counties of England. William's scorched earth policy of  'Harrying of the North' bordered on genocide, with perhaps as much as 5% of the total English population killed, and the vast majority of those casualties being from the area between the Humber and the Tees (modern Yorkshire and County Durham). Nearly 20 years later the Domesday Book rated the northern counties as only worth 60% of their pre-conquest value, and while the major towns survived much of the countryside in 1086 was still mournfully recorded simply as 'wasta' - waste.
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PostSubject: Re: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Sat 12 Sep 2015, 10:07

1746 was pretty awful for those Scots of the Jacobite cause or living in the areas subject to Cumberland's reprisals but for the Unionist side it was a time of some celebration.
1513, after Flodden though, left a country in mourning with the deaths of probably around 14,000 men on the field including the king and a high proportion of the nobility. Also killed but not recorded were the members of the large baggage train and possibly many hundreds of camp followers ambushed as they fled back towards the Tweed. It is some indication of the impact of this disaster that the pipe tune Flooers o' the Forest has such widespread currency as a dirge.

Of course, who can forget 1978 - when grown men wept in the streets and tossed their tartan scarves on the bonfire of history.
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PostSubject: Re: Annus Horribilis Anglorum ... or, THAT was a really bad year that was!   Sun 13 Sep 2015, 21:51

Ferval,

"Of course, who can forget 1978 - when grown men wept in the streets and tossed their tartan scarves on the bonfire of history."

As I only know that the ball in football is round (at least "our" football Wink) and that of the wheel of a bycicle in the cycle competition too , I had to do some research before...

Yes all those strong markers which some people (to be honest: let's say a lot) so hardly cling to to show their adherence to and even fight for it. Markers as dogmatic religion, addicted to sport events, jingoistic nationhood and yes some to their local language...some remnants of the ethnic past where the tribes fought for their hunting ground...?
And again to be honest...it could be that the Belgian unity between Flemings and Francophones is lately saved by the recent and future  behaviour of our "national" Belgian football team...

Kind regards from your friend, Paul.
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