Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Saturday 13th July 1174: Bad News Day (NU247062)

During the eighteen month period from April 1173 to September 1174, King Henry II of England, Normandy and Anjou, spent most of his time fending off a revolt from his wife and three of their sons. And all of this at a time when he was in most people’s bad books after the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. But he came through it all successfully, continuing his rule until his death in 1189.

The north of England suffered a fair bit during this period of upheaval, with the rebels’ alliance with both the Scots and Bishop Pudsey (the most powerful of Durham’s Prince Bishops) bringing a good deal of hassle the way of the local populace. And one day in particular stands out: Saturday 13th July 1174.

Now I’m not sure of the exact order of events on that fateful day, but as for Bishop Pudsey, well, he must have awoken that morning thinking that his plan was coming together very nicely. For that day, forty knights and 500 Flemish soldiers sailed into Hartlepool to support the rebellion, and were placed under the command of the bishop’s nephew, Hugh, Count of Bar.

Elsewhere, and at the very same time, the Scots were busy rampaging around the Northumberland countryside, as they were prone to do. And this summer Saturday morning it was the turn of Warkworth to suffer, as the ravishing hordes descended on the town. Duncan, Earl of Fife, under orders from the Scottish king, William the Lion, unleashed the full force of his army upon the hapless men, women and children of Warkworth, setting the streets ablaze. Amidst the chaos, 300 of them took refuge in the Church of St.Lawrence – but the Earl’s men broke in and butchered them all, paying no regard to age or sex.

St.Lawrence’s Church, Warkworth

But the day was not yet over. The Scottish king, William the Lion, was keen to commence his siege of Alnwick Castle before the day was out, and this he did with such enthusiasm that he ventured too close to the castle’s walls and was snatched and taken prisoner. The Scots were effectively beaten, and the rebellion thereafter crumbled. Bishop Pudsey’s Flemish mercenaries quickly turned on their heels and scarpered home, and the rebel cleric made a hasty peace with Henry II.
 
Astonishingly, King Henry had only just visited Canterbury the day before (12th July) to do penance for his involvement in the death of Thomas Becket in December 1170….


 


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