The British History Podcast
Summary: The BHP is a chronological retelling of the history of Britain with a particular focus upon the lives of the people. You won't find a dry recounting of dates and battles here, but instead you'll learn about who these people were and how their desires, fears, and flaws shaped the histories of England, Scotland, and Wales. iTunes is restricting our list to 300 episodes for some reason. To access all episodes, click subscribe. Support the Show
“Under AEthelred nothing was done; or, more truly, throughout his whole reign he left undone those things which he ought to have done, and he did those things he ought not to have done.” That is the damning conclusion of Edward Augustus Freeman, a Victorian historian, and epic beard grower.
King Edward, like those before him, had died under mysterious and apparently violent circumstances. And the next in line for this increasingly bloody throne of England was his 12 year old little half-brother. Æthelred.
“No man can make himself king, but the people have the choice to choose as king whom they please; but after he is consecrated as king, he then has dominion over the people, and they cannot shake his yoke from their necks.” So reads the homily written by the famed writer, AElfric. He was writing his patrons, Ealdorman AEthelweard the Chronicler and his son, AEthelmaer, a decade or so after King Edward was killed.
King Edgar is Dead… and in his place reigned his son, King Edward of England. And you’d think that we’d be referring to him as King Edward the First. Or, if you wanted to fudge it a bit and give Edward the Elder some credit for forming the Kingdom of the Anglo Saxons… maybe King Edward II. Support the Show
King Edgar the Peaceable was buried at Glastonbury in 975. But weirdly that isn’t the end of his story. William of Malmesbury tells us that nearly a century later, in 1053, the Abbot Ailward re-opened the King’s tomb. Malmsbury doesn’t tell us WHY the monk opened the grave, so I suppose we can just assume Ailward was going through a goth phase. What we are told is that when the Abbot opened the tomb he found Edgar laying in it perfectly preserved as if he was merely sleeping. Faced with an apparent miracle, or what we would today recognize as an obvious vampire, Ailward decided to press his luck even farther… and he cut into the flesh of the long dead King. Support the Show
Human beings can’t really be summed up in a nickname. Usually we are more complicated than a word or two. And sometimes, the nickname just doesn’t reflect reality. If you take Edward the Elder, for example, the name probably conjures up an image of Gandalf. But Edward was only in his early 50’s when he died. Support the Show
You would think that someone named Edgar the Peaceable enjoyed a good reputation. But the closer you look, the more things start to look…off. And if you look closer than that, you start to get the sense that maybe things WERE off. Support the Show
Across the North Sea, in Scandinavia, a man named Harald Greycloak was struggling for dominance in the region. He wasn’t just any man, he was a son of Erik Bloodaxe and Gunnhilde. And his fight brought him into direct conflict with King Haakon.
The King is dead. Long live the King. Eadwig, the 18 year old King known for his beauty, had died. Somehow.
The King is dead, long live the King. So … last episode was a bit of a shocker wasn’t it?
History is known as a field for being a bit of a slog. Tracing events, and people, and social movements through decades and centuries is a huge task and the results are usually dense at the best of times. But once in a while, in between all the battles and the politics and the dynasties, the record cradles a story so short, and sweet, and perfect that it deserves to stand alone. And this very special BHP Valentine’s Day episode is just this sort of story.
Northumbria was always the hot mess of the heptarchy. There are a few exceptions where they manage to pull it together long enough to produce something important, like Bede, or when Leeds United won the premiership in 1991. But generally, it’s a bit of a shitshow. Sort of like Leeds United.
We can probably assume that Harald Fairhair, the King of Norway, had fantastic hair. It was either big, or really long, or super glossy, and it was almost definitely blonde. But it wasn’t the only trait he was known for. Harald Fairhair was also known for getting around… and around… and around. According to records, he had as many as 20 sons. Twenty!
Ok, where were we? With all this focus on culture, it’s been a little bit since we last talked about the political situation in Britain. So lets remind ourselves of where things were politically.
This isn’t going to end well.