Sunday, March 7, 2010

07.07.07 - A Medieval King's Passing

Our last blog post was about King Edward I of England ... a man whose true life story is incredibly compelling and, in many ways, inspiring. In recent years he has not received the best of 'press' thanks to movies such as 'Braveheart' but many of his deeds showed him to be a man of courage, strong principles and, ironically, courtesy. He was for the most part loved and respected by the people he ruled and, thereby, a truly great king.

So it was with the inspiring aspects of his life in mind that we recently decided to visit the place where Edward I died. The trip we made was to Burgh by Sands in Cumbria, England. It is a small, country village close to the marshlands of the Solway Firth. We drove through the village and came to a signpost for the Edward I Monument. Following the narrow country lane for a mile or so there was another signpost leading down a small turn-off. In the distance we could see for many miles, out across fields to the Solway Firth with Scotland in the distance. About half a mile in front of us, in the middle of a grassy expanse, we could see a stone monument about 20 feet tall with a cross on top. We parked our car ... reaching the monument could only be done on foot. Here is a video clip of the view from the footpath with the monument in the distance ....


The sky was blue, the sun shining, the wind biting and the ground hard with frost as we walked down the footpath, up and over a wooden stile and then across a wide expanse of open ground that seemed to extend as far as the eye could see. The Monument was just a few hundred yards in front of us. There was no-one else around, just a few sheep grazing and birds flying overhead towards the river and marshlands. It was a rare kind of experience ... we were surrounded by the beauty of nature and a landscape that had not changed in centuries yet we were also standing at the place where, 700 years before, one of the greatest kings of England had passed away.

Edward had been on his way to confront the Scots (yet again) when he was taken ill at Lanercost Priory just east of Carlisle. There he stayed for several months until well enough to travel again but he only managed another 15 or 20 miles before he was forced to stop and make camp just outside Burgh by Sands. There he died on 7 July 1307. The 7th day of the 7th month of the 7th year of the century in which he lived.

It's impossible to convey how special our visit was but perhaps this short video clip will impart a little of what I am sure will become one of my most special history-related memories ....


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Friday, July 17, 2009

A Great & Terrible Medieval King - Edward I

One relatively well known fact in Cumbria is that back in medieval times Lanercost Priory was, for a short time, the centre of government for the UK. However the circumstances around this are less well known. We have blogged about medieval Lanercost previously - see our Medieval Court In Cumbria post.

A book well worth reading to learn and understand more about the king's time at Lanercost is the biography of Edward I by Marc Morris "A great and terrible King" in which he tells of the events of 1306 and 1307 when the King was at the end of his life.

Having earned his nickname as the "Hammer of the Scots", August 1306 saw him travelling across Northumberland, staying at Hexham Abbey. From here progress westward was slow but eventually the retinue reached Lanercost where it stayed as 1306 turned into 1307. For more about that medieval winter in Cumbria read our previous Winter Home For A Medieval King post.

Reversals in the Scottish campaigns galvanized Edward I and by mid March 1307 he finally reached Carlisle. It was from here that he planned his next campaign. Even though seriously ill he rode out at the head of the hastily assembled army and headed for the Solway Firth. It took 10 days to cover 6 miles .... a truly sad indication of his health and on 6 July he stopped at Burgh by Sands. The next morning, a Friday and the Feast of St Thomas, he died.

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