Oak apple day May 29th

Charles II from an old illustration
Charles II from an old illustration

Oak Apple Day was set up by Parliament in 1660 as “An Act for a Perpetual Anniversary Thanksgiving'” for the restoration of Charles II to the throne in May of 1660. It was abolished in 1859, but a few places continue to celebrate the day. The Oak was chosen partly as a symbol of England but particularly because after Cromwell’s Parliamentary Army defeated the Royalists at the Battle of Worcester (September 3rd 1651), Charles hid in an Oak Tree near Boscobel House in Shropshire on his epic journey to the South Coast and the safety of France.

People wore oak apples (or shick-shacks) which are a type of ‘plant-gall‘. This is an abnormal growth from a point of irritation on a plant. Or they were used sprigs of Oak leaves.

The text of the Parliamentary Bill said:

That in all succeeding ages, the 29th of May be celebrated in every parish Church and Chapel in England and the Dominions thereof, by rendering thanks to God for the Kings (Charles II’s) restoration to actual possession and exercise of his legal authority over his subjects’

Church Services for the Restoration; for the preservation from the Gunpowder Plot and the death of Charles the First were kept up until the year 1859.

You might like to look at my post:

and I posted on John Evelyn’s reaction to the Restoration

Titus Oakes flogged from Aldgate to Newgate  May 20th 1685

Popish Plot playing cards c1679 after a design by Francis Barlow

Titus Oakes was a con-man who accused leading Catholics, including the Queen, and the King’s Brother’s wife of participating in a plot to kill King Charles II and restore a Catholic monarchy. 

It is thought that 22 people were executed, some Hanged, Drawn and Quartered because of Oates’ baseless accusations.  Diarist, Samuel Pepys, was caught up in the controversy and the entire country was swept up in the anti-Catholic frenzy called the Popish Plot.

It was only with the accession of James II that the climate of opinion changed, and Oates was found guilty of perjury.  Perjury was not punishable with death, so Oakes’ punishment was a long-drawn-out affair instead. He was sentenced to be imprisoned for life, and ‘whipped through the streets of London for five days a year for the remainder of his life.’

Oates was put in the pillory at Westminster Hall where passers-by pelted him with eggs. He was again pilloried the next day in the City.  On the third day, stripped, tied to a cart, and whipped from Aldgate to Newgate. The following day he was whipped from Newgate to Tyburn. (Source Wikipedia)

However, when James II was deposed and replaced by the joint Protestants monarchs William and Mary in 1689, he was released and given a pension.  He died in 1705.

All Fools Day April 1st

April from the Kalendar of Shepherds

The first unambiguous British reference to April Fools Day is by diarist John Aubrey’s “Fooles holy day” in 1686, although he might have been referring to Germany. (‘We observe it on ye first of April… And so it is kept in Germany everywhere.)” For more details read hoaxes.org

But there is a possible earlier reference in Chaucer in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale which I find quite compelling but most Chaucer scholars don’t. This is the text:

When that the monthe in which the world bigan
That highte March, whan God first maked man,
Was complet, and passed were also
Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two

So, if you have been keeping up with me, you will know that the first lines are referring to March 25th, (when the world began) when God made Adam and Eve, and when the Church started the New Year and the year number moved one on. This was a major Church festival, usually followed by a week of holiness. The Roman New Year, January 1st, ended with a light-hearted festival called Saturnalia, and it is suggested that April 1st was, similarly, a day of release after the festival of the official Church ceremony of the New Year.

Chaucer’s last line says ‘Since March began thirty-two days have passed.’ A foolish person would not realise this is a reference to April 1st. Hence, this suggests a Fool’s Day already existed. Scholars tend to prefer to think that Chaucer was referring to May 2nd, counting the 32 days not from the beginning of March but from the end of March. I think they look at the second and third lines which read ‘That high March…. was complete’ and so add the 32 days to the end of March. Foolish in my opinion and not reading what Chaucer wrote.

I nearly always forget to honour April Fool’s Day (or April Fish Day as the French call it). But in Britain, we generally find that somewhere in our newspaper or TV station there is a April Fools Joke slipped in. The most remembered is the BBC piece showing film of Italian Farmers picking spaghetti from trees. Last year Harry and Megan proved irresistible and the Guardian reported that:

The Sun published a piece announcing the launch of Prince Harry and Meghan’s new video game “Megxit: Call of Duke-y” in which the royal couple try to reach California while dodging obstacles, including rival royals and the media, along the way.

This year this was the equivalent story (from the Guardian’s quiz on April Fool’s jokes:

Meghan Markle was criticised after it was revealed that when you put her lifestyle brand name – American Riviera Orchard – into the What3words location service, it points to a statue of Oliver Cromwell, who famously had a King Charles executed

Generally, in Britain, we play a prank and say ‘April Fool’ with great delight. But we are not allowed to continue beyond midday. The Scots used to call it ‘Hunting the Gowk’ and the main prank was to give someone a letter to deliver, and the person who opened the letter would read:

Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile” and send the fool onto another leg of his or her’s fool’s errand. In Ireland the letter would read ‘send the fool further’.

April comes from Latin and it was Aperilis from aperio from ‘to open’ as this is the month when the Earth opens. In Anglo-Saxon the Venerable Bede mentioned that they called the month Eostremonath. But there really is no other evidence for the Goddess Eostre from where we get our word ‘Easter’. In Gaelic it’s the Cuckoo’s month ‘Ceitein na h-oinsich’. In Welsh it is Ebrill which comes from the Latin.

The image from the medieval Kalendar of Shepherds shows all the beautiful flowers blooming and a female sitting on the grass embroidering, and the star signs of Aries (a Fire sign, brave, independent and impulsive) and Taurus (an Earth Sign: stubborn, down to earth, sensual with good taste).

First published March 25th 4004 BC and republished on April 1st 2024

The Beginning of the Universe as We Know It; Birthdays of Adam, Lilith, & Eve; Conception of Jesus, Start of the Year March 25th

Lilith is shown coming her hair and looking in a mirror
Study for Lady Lilith, by Rossetti. 1866, in red chalk. Now in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (Wikipedia
Study for Lady Lilith, by Rossetti. 1866, in red chalk. Now in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (Wikipedia)

March 25th is the Annunciation—the day that the Archangel Gabriel tells Mary she is pregnant. (to see some very fine paintings of this meeting, look at my other March 25th post here)

March 25th is also the anniversary of the birth of Adam and Eve (and presumably Lilith); the death of Jesus Christ; the anniversary of the Immolation of Isaac; the Parting of the Red Sea; the Fall of Lucifer; and, (until 1752 in the UK) the beginning of the Year.

Of course, it isn’t or to put it another way, no one can, or ever could, prove any of these dates except the last one. So what they speak to is the way the Church saw the world as logically structured by God. Christian thinking about the year, the world, the universe, creation, developed over many years and took influences from many cultures. It is also very complicated to work out the sequence, so I’m going to summarise from what I know (or at least what I think I know).

Christians chose Christmas Day as the Birthdate of Jesus probably because it was a prominent birthday already shared with several Gods, but particularly Mithras and Saturn. It was approximately at Solstice, the beginning of the Solar Year, and close to one of the main festivals of the Roman World, the Saturnalia. December 25th might have been chosen by the pagan religions because it is the time when the Sun begins to rise, to the naked eye, further north each day, lengthening the day, increasing light and the promise of warmer weather.

So, Jesus was born on/or around the Solstice, so he must have been conceived approx. 9 months earlier, which would be around the Spring Equinox. I have always thought that the 4 or 5 days difference between the Solstice, the Equinox and the Christian festivals was down to the fact that the Calendars were not well coordinated with the actual movements of the Sun (because the Sun does not circle the earth in 365 days, or in 365 and a quarter days, but 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes which makes Calendars hard to align with the Sun). But I have just realised the importance of something I discovered yesterday when preparing my two posts on March 25th. And since writing that sentence I have had another revelation. But be patient.

So, God sends his Son to save the human race. God is a logical being, so she would send the Son at an appropriate time. If the Child is born at or near the Solstice, which is an appropriate time for the Son of the Creator, then 9 months earlier, March 25th, is near the Equinox, which is the beginning of Spring. For many people, Spring is a new beginning, for example, the Anglo-Saxons saw Winter as the death of the year, and Spring as the young Year.

So to the Creation. God, having a free choice, would have created the world at the beginning of Spring. In fact, if you think about it, God creates everything necessary for life at the creation in 6 days, and it is going to immediately spring into new life, and the first season must, therefore, be Spring? Right? So March 25th.

This gives a nice symmetry with Jesus’s Life. Conceived on March 25th, born December 25th, and died 30-40 years later, according to the Church, on March 25th. (the only other famous person I know born and died on the same day is William Shakespeare).

Easter, when Jesus is martyred, isn’t March 25th I hear you saying. But remember, Easter is a lunar festival, so its date varies each year. Births and deaths, on the other hand, are fixed to the Solar Calendar and the Church chooses March 25th as the most appropriate day to pin the death of Jesus, on the anniversary of his conception and the anniversary of the creation of the Earth, and I am guessing that this is also the preferred date for the Day of Judgement.

It is also the Birthday of Adam, and his first wife Lilith (or so some say), and Eve. More about Lilith below. I thought this date was just one of the parallels that the Church liked, Jesus and Adam born on the same day but, I have just worked out why Adam is born on March 25th, and why these dates are not the Equinox, March 20th but March 25th, which has been bugging me.

Let’s go back to the Beginning of Creation. According to the Anno Munda‘s arrangement of the Year, the world was created 5500 years plus 2023 years ago so 7523 Before the Present. And it was supposed to have ended in 600AD, 6000 years after the Creation. So, they got that wrong.

The Creation, as described in Genesis, has the following sequence of Seven Days. As the Creation began at the Equinox March 20th. I have added dates to the 6/7 day sequence of Creation:

  • Day 1: Light – March 20th
  • Day 2: Atmosphere / Firmament – March 21st
  • Day 3: Dry ground & plants – March 22nd
  • Day 4: Sun, moon & stars – March 23rd
  • Day 5: Birds & sea creatures – March 24th
  • Day 6: Land animals & humans – March 25th
  • Day 7: The Sabbath of rest – March 26th
  • For more information www.bibleinfo.com

So there you have it! Adam, Lilith, and Eve were created on Day 6 with the Land Animals – March 25th. Jesus conceived, also on this date, and so 9 months later is born on December 25th. It all makes sense, and aligns the Christian year fully with the Solar Year.

And that, dear Reader, is the very first time anyone has been able to explain to me why Christmas is not at the Solstice, and why the Annunciation was not at the Equinox. Maybe you all know this, but it is very exciting to work this out for myself. And believe me, I have done a lot of reading about calendars and not spotted an explanation.

So that was yesterday’s revelation. What about the revelation I had about 45 minutes ago? (now about 5 hours). When writing items like this, there are numerous things that are interconnected, and I begin writing them before realising I am interrupting the story I am trying to tell. This is often to the detriment of the story arc, or to understanding (although often, I think, adds to the joy of this blog – after all ChatGBT couldn’t write this stuff – could it?).

So I began to write about Dionysius Exiguus and his invention of the AD/BC system and about eras, cycles, and ages. (He replaced the Anno Mundo year with the AD/BC system in the 6th Century AD).

I was thinking about the beginning of the year. The Celts chose October 31st, Julius Caesar chose January 1st, other cultures have other dates, and the Spring Equinox is another choice sometimes made. The Church and Dionysius Exiguus choose March 25th, although secular society also recognised the claims of January 1st. Britain kept to March 25th until 1752 when we adopted the Gregorian Calendar. But people like Samuel Pepys celebrated New Year’s Eve on 31st December. So January 1st was the New Year, but the year number did not change until March 25th. So King Charles I thought his head was being cut off on January 30th 1648; while history books will tell you it was cut off on January 30th 1649. Same day, different reckonings.

December 31st/January 1st is essentially a Solstice New Year Festival. And I have, previously, used the difficulty of keeping calendars as to why these days has slipped out of alignment with the Solstice. But, today I realised that it is as likely that the reason is the Solar/Lunar nature of our time keeping. The year, and its festivals, is largely arranged around the Solar Cycle. But our weekly and monthly cycles are derived from the Moon. So, I think that January 1st (or the Kalends of January as the Romans would have called it) would originally have been the First New Moon after the Winter Solstice. Keeping the Moon months and the Sun years in sync is very, very difficult, and so Roman and Christian cultures gave up and fixed the moon months, completely abandoning any attempt to keep the months to the actual lunar cycle. This is our current system, in which only Easter remains a true to the moon festival, much to our perennial confusion.

Maybe you all know this, but I’ve learnt a lot in writing these two posts.

Lilith

The April 2023 Issue of ‘History Today’ has a short piece called ‘The Liberation of Lilith’ which suggests that the story of Lilith, a figure from Jewish Folklore, is first attested in a Medieval satirical text called ‘The Alphabet of Ben Sira’. The story goes that Lilith is created using the same clay as Adam. Adam then demands she lies below him during sex. She refuses, saying that they are both made from the same stuff and, therefore, equal. Adam refuses to accept this, and so Lilith leaves the Garden of Eden. So the story goes.

The story of Lilith, Sarah Clegg suggests, is one of a series of similar stories found around Europe and Asia. And Clegg assumes that it is gradually modified to make Lilith a demon who will kill babies unless the names of three angels are spoken out loud. So, the story survives as a charm to keep babies safe, and perhaps to remind people of equality among the sexes. But this causes problems for, OK, let’s call them out, the Patriarchy. Lilith cannot be equal to Adam so she becomes a monster, not made from the same clay as Adam but from the scum and waste left over from Adam’s creation. I imagine the story then went on to propose that God creates Eve from Adam’s rib, and so she is created from Adam, and is, therefore nor equal, but subservient to him. Lilith is now a significant figure in feminist folklore circles.

I wrote about more about eras and ages in my post which you can see her: Greater Cycles and the Six or Seven Ages

Attached to the watercolour of Lilith by Rossetti (at the top of the page), was a label with a verse from Goethe‘s Faust as translated by Shelley. (Wikipedia)

“Beware of her fair hair, for she excells
All women in the magic of her locks,
And when she twines them round a young man’s neck
she will not ever set him free again.”

The model is Fanny Cornforth, Rossetti’s mistress. He painted another version a few years later, but the model in that is Alexa Wilding. His models are arguably more interesting than the man himself and include: Elizabeth Siddall, Jane Morris and Fanny Cornforth. Christina Rossetti, his poet sister, modelled for Rossetti’s painting, Ecce Ancilla Domini which you can see here.

I think I might have enough material to begin my own Cult.

For more on the Annunciation, look at my other March 25th post here.

John Evelyn’s Death 27th February 1706

27th February, 1661. Ash Wednesday. Preached before the King the Bishop of London (Dr. Sheldon) on Matthew xviii. 25, concerning charity and forgiveness.

John Evelyn’s Diary from https://www.gutenberg.org/

John Evelyn is, with Pepys and Wren, one of the great figures of 17th Century London.  Unlike Pepys he was an avowed Royalist who hated Oliver Cromwell and all he stood for.  He went into exile with his King and gives a great description of Paris (see below).  Dr Sheldon, the Bishop of London mentioned above, went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury, and being a friend of Wren’s Father, commissioned Wren to build the Sheldonian Theatre, in Oxford.

Like Pepys, he was a diarist and a writer. And they, like Wren, were alumni of the Royal Society, one of the great scientific societies. John Evelyn was a founding fellow. It was innovative in that it employed an experimenter, Robert Hooke – one of the great early Scientists and it encouraged scientists to write up, for peer review, their theories. This is the foundation of western Science, and a bedrock of the Enlightenment.

Frontispiece of ‘the History of the Royal-Society of London by Thomas Sprat

Evelyn was a prolific traveller and a polymath. He wrote on the need to improve London’s architecture and air in Fumifugium (or The Inconveniencie of the Aer and Smoak of London Dissipated). And was an expert on trees writing: Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-Trees (1664). He lived at Sayes Court in Depford near Greenwich, which he ill-advisedly rented to Peter the Great of Russia. Letting to Peter was a bit like inviting a 1960s Rock Band to trash your mansion.

Here is an extract from his Furmifugium. It has a place in my history because, in the 1980’s I worked on a project to create an interactive history of London, financed by Warner Brothers, and in cooperation with something called the ‘BBC Interactive TV Unit’. One part of it was a Literary Tour of London, and this is where I came across John Evelyn using several of the quotations on this page.

That this Glorious and Antient City, which from Wood might be rendred Brick, and (like another Rome) from Brick made Stone and Marble; which commands the Proud Ocean to the Indies, and reaches to the farthest Antipo­des, should wrap her stately head in Clowds of Smoake and Sulphur, so full of Stink and Dark­nesse, I deplore with just Indignation.

That the Buildings should be compos’d of such a Congestion of mishapen and extravagant Houses; That the Streets should be so narrow and incommodious in the very Center, and busiest places of Intercourse: That there should be so ill and uneasie a form of Paving under foot, so troublesome and malicious a disposure of the Spouts and Gutters overhead, are particulars worthy of Reproof and Reforma­tion; because it is hereby rendred a Labyrinth in its principal passages, and a continual Wet-day after the Storm is over.

Here is a taste of Evelyn’s time as an Exile, this is a short extract from a long entry on the splendid Palaces in and around Paris.

27th February, 1644. Accompanied with some English gentlemen, we took horse to see St. Germains-en-Laye, a stately country house of the King, some five leagues from Paris. By the way, we alighted at St. Cloud, where, on an eminence near the river, the Archbishop of Paris has a garden, for the house is not very considerable, rarely watered and furnished with fountains, statues,[and groves; the walks are very fair; the fountain of Laocoon is in a large square pool, throwing the water near forty feet high, and having about it a multitude of statues and basins, and is a surprising object. But nothing is more esteemed than the cascade falling from the great steps into the lowest and longest walk from the Mount Parnassus, which consists of a grotto, or shell-house, on the summit of the hill, wherein are divers waterworks and contrivances to wet the spectators; this is covered with a fair cupola, the walls painted with the Muses, and statues placed thick about it, whereof some are antique and good. In the upper walks are two perspectives, seeming to enlarge the alleys, and in this garden are many other ingenious contrivances.

John Evelyn’s Diary from https://www.gutenberg.org/

When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, this is Evelyn’s reaction:

May 29th 1660:

This day came in his Majestie Charles the 2d to London after a sad, and long exile… this was also his birthday, and with a Triumph of above 20,000 horse and foote, brandishing their swords and shouting with unexpressable joy; the wayes strawed with flowers, the bells ringing, the streets hung with Tapisry, fountains running with wine: ‘

‘The mayor, Aldermen, all the companies in their liveries, chaines of gold, banners, Lords and nobles, cloth of Silver, gold and velvet every body clad in, the windows and balconies all set with Ladys, Trumpetes, Musik, and myriads of people … All this without one drop of bloud …it was the Lords doing…

For Evelyn’s opinion of Cromwell have a look at this post of mine:

St Apollonia’s Day. A Day to Cure the Toothache February 9th

Saint Apollonia. Woodcut. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark. She is shown with forceps and extracted tooth and the martyr’s palm.

The 9th of February is St Apollonia’s Day. She was martyred at Alexandria in 249 AD during the persecution of Emperor Decius. She was attacked during an anti-Christian riot and struck around the face knocking her teeth out. Then, she was taken to a bonfire and told they would throw her in if she did not renounce her faith. So, without waiting, she spoke a prayer and walked into the fire. This information is recorded in a near-contemporary letter from St Dionysius of Alexandria and so is a rare well documented martyrdom. Because her teeth were knocked out she is, therefore, Saint of Toothache.

I can remember my Grandmother prescribing cloves for me when I had toothache. And this was, and is, a common remedy. In my case, we would keep a clove or two in the mouth close to the site of the pain. According to Natural Ways to Sooth an Toothache cloves contain

‘Eugenol, a natural form of anaesthetic and antiseptic that helps get rid of germs. Eugenol is still used in dental materials today’

Dr John Hall, Shakespeare’s son-in-law, tended to use a pill to soothe sore gums, but also a oil from a wood called ‘Ol. Lig. Heraclei’ which may be oil from the Bay Tree. (‘John Hall and his Patients’ by Joan Lane). Most of his tooth cases seem to be sore gums, which suggests to me Dr John Hall did not generally do dental work.

To get a tooth drawn you could go to a Barber Surgeon, a Blacksmiths or specialist Tooth Drawer. This would be terrifyingly painful and probably only done when the pain was unbearable, but just think what a premium could be demanded by a really competent drawer. The drawers would probably not have any formal training, but the skills would be passed on by the drawer to his apprentice or assistant. So, they were a very important part of the health care system.

A bill of mortality for London 1665, showing 11 deaths caused by 'teeth' (as opposed to 353 for 'feaver'
List of causes of death, London during the plague of 1665. Teeth killed 11 people

‘Teeth’ was a common cause of death – most likely being from infection or an abscess. It is interesting that someone as erudite and educated as the 17th Century writer, John Aubrey tells us in a chapter on Magick of less formal ways of tooth care. He tells us, in places, that the person who told him the story is worthy of belief. So he seems to give some credence to the efficacy of these magickal ‘cures’. But, judge for yourself; this is what he wrote:

To Cure the Tooth-ach.

Take a new Nail, and make the Gum bleed with it, and then drive it into an Oak. This did Cure William Neal, Sir William Neal’s Son, a very stout Gentleman, when he was almost Mad with the Pain, and had a mind to have Pistoll’d himself.

To Cure the Tooth-ach, out of Mr. Ashmole’s Manuscript Writ with his own Hand.

Mars, hur, abursa, aburse.
Iesu Christ for Marys sake,
Take away this Tooth-ach.

Write the words, Three times; and as you say the Words, let the Party burn one Paper, then another, and then the last.

He says, he saw it experimented, and the Party immediately Cured

John Aubrey’s Miscellanies 1695

May, Williams and Bishop at the Old Bailey accused of murder in pursuit of bodysnatching

In 1832, in London Bishop, Williams and May were accused of bodysnatching. After killing the Italian Boy ( wonderful book by Sarah Wise ‘The Italian Boy‘) they jemmied out the teeth and took them to a South London Dentist. They ‘cheapened’ (I cheap, you cheap, we are cheapening: meaning to barter) with the Dentist to get a decent price for the teeth. The dentist wanted to use them for false teeth for his patients. If I remember correctly, he paid £1 for them.

The teeth were evidence in the trial of the murderers, and once two of them had been hanged (the third turned King’s Evidence), the dentist asked for the teeth back! They were released back to the Dentist who promptly put them in the window of his surgery as an advert for his professional skills!

Earlier, one of the Borough Boys Resurrectionist gang (based in Southwark, London) toured the battlefields of the Peninsular Wars and came back with hundreds of teeth extracted from dead soldiers to sell to dentists as false teeth – they became known as Waterloo Teeth.

When I first wrote this in I added ‘How things have changed!’, but recent news that people in parts of Britain, without effective access to Dental care, have begun resorted to doing their own dental work. This often means extracting their own rotten teeth. Effectively, it seems this Conservative Government is allowing dentistry to slip out of the NHS just like it did with eye health. For a study in what has happened to Dentistry in the UK in recent years, please look at this report here.

First writen February 2023, revised February 2024.

Charles I’s Martyrdom & ‘Get Back’ January 30th

Banqueting Hall and Execution of Charles I
Banqueting Hall and Execution of Charles I

January 30th is the anniversary of the day King Charles I was beheaded as a murderer and traitor, or, on the other hand, a martyr to the Church of England.

Samuel Pepys observed the funeral, as did thousands of others. They crowded around the scaffold outside a window of Inigo Jones’s magnificent Banqueting Hall, in Whitehall, London. Whether Charles appreciated the irony of his last walk, which was below the magnificent Peter Paul Reubens’ ceiling depicting the Apotheosis of his father, James I, we can’t say. But it is, perhaps, more likely he thought he was soon on his way to meet his father in heaven in glory as a Martyr to his religion. He walked outside, through the window, into the cold January air. He seems to have been wearing 2 shirts, perhaps to stop him shivering, which would have been misinterpreted by his many enemies. Then, he made a short speech exonerating himself. All the Rooftops around were lined with spectators and, as the executioner axe fell, there was a dull grown from the crowd.

This was on January 30th, 1648. But, if you look at a history book, it will tell you it was in 1649. This was before our conversation to the Gregorian calendar. In those days, the year number changed not as we do on January 1st but on March 25th when the archangel Gabriel revealed to the Virgin Mary that she was pregnant. For more on the importance of March 25th look at my Almanac entry:

On the same day, twelve years later, in 1660 Oliver Cromwell’s and his chief henchmen were dug up from their splendid Westminster Abbey tombs and their bodies abused by official command. Cromwell’s head was stuck on the top of Westminster Hall, where it remained for many years.

The Royalist, John Evelyn, said in his diary:

This day (oh the stupendous, and inscrutable Judgements of God) were the Carkasses of that arch-rebel Cromwel1, Bradshaw, the Judge who condemned his Majestie and Ireton, sonn in law to the usurper, dragged out of their superb Tombs (in Westminster among the Kings) to Tybourne, and hanged on the Gallows there from 9 in the morning till 6 at night, and then buried under that fatal and ignominious Monument in a deep pit. Thousands of people (who had seen them in all their pride and pompous insults) being spectators .

Samuel Pepys records by contrast:

…do trouble me that a man of so great courage as he was should have that dishonour, though otherwise he might deserve it enough…

Pepys served the Parliamentary side before the restoration of Charles II, when he adroitly, swapped over to the Royalist side.

Get Back To Where you Once Belonged.

This is also the anniversary (1969) of the rooftop concert in Saville Row where the Beatles played ‘Get Back’.

YouTube Clip with scenes from the Roof Top Concert

First published in 2023, revised on January 29th 2024

January 23rd Hawthorn and Planting for Hedges

 Photo by Timo C. Dinger on Unsplash
photo of hawthorn flowers
Photo by Timo C. Dinger on Unsplash

Many plants can be used for hedges, but hawthorn is the most common. It can be planted as bare-root from Autumn to Spring, so January is as good a time as any. It can also be grown from the seeds from its red berries. But this takes 18 months to achieve. Interspersed along the hedge should be trees—either trees for timber, or crab-apples or pear-stocks. Trees were also useful as markers. Before modern surveys, property would be delineated by ancient trees. Hedges could be quickly moved, and perhaps not noticed. Trees couldn’t.

Hawthorn is an oasis for insects, mammals and migrating birds (who eat the berries). It is a lovely plant for May, and it is often called May, or the May Flower or May Tree and also whitethorn. The berries are called ‘haws’ hence hawthorn. For more on this, look at https://whisperingearth.co.uk.

Hawthorn produces white flowers in Spring, and it is one of the great pagan fertility plants, its flowers forming the garlands on May Eve. One of the chemicals in the plant is the same as one given out in decay of flesh, so it has been, in folklore, also associated with death. So, is not to be brought into the house.

It was also said to be the thorn in the Crown of Thorns, so sacred. A crown from the helmet of the dead King Richard III was found on a hawthorn at Bosworth Field, and so adopted as a device by the victorious Henry VII. For more on the plant, https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

a triangle of stained glass on a black background.
A 'Quarry' of Stained Glass showing the Crown, a hawthorn Bush and initials representing Henry VII and his, Queen, Elizabeth of York.  Possibly from Surrey. Early 16th Century and from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Public Domain).
A ‘Quarry’ of Stained Glass showing the Crown, a hawthorn Bush and initials representing Henry VII and his, Queen, Elizabeth of York. Possibly from Surrey. Early 16th Century and from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Public Domain).

John Worlidge, wrote in 1697

‘And first, the White-thorn is esteemed the best for fencing; it is raised either of Seeds or Plants; by Plants is the speediest way, but by Seeds where the place will admit of delay, is less charge, and as succesful, though it require longer time, they being till the Spring come twelvemonth ere they spring out of the Earth; but when they have past two or three years, they flourish to admiration.’

Systema Agriculturae 1697

Hawthorn is an excellent wood for burning, better than oak, having the hottest fire so that its charcoal could melt pig-iron without the need of a blast. It is also good for making small objects such as boxes, combs, and tool-handles. It takes a fine polish, so also used for veneers and cabinets.

This is the time, according to Moon Gardeners, to plant and sow plants that develop below ground. So rhubarb and garlic, fruit trees, bushes, bare-root plants and hedging plants.

Hawthorn has many medicinal benefits according to herbalists. Mrs Grieve suggests it was used as a cardiac tonic, to cure sore throats and as a diuretic. But don’t try any of these ancient remedies without medical advice!

First Published in January 2023, revised in January 2024

Apples & if the frost be very extreame January 9th

Gervase Markham was born in 1568, in Nottinghamshire, and was a prolific writer. Today, prompted by the Perpetual Almanac by Charles Kightly, I am looking through Markham’s eyes at Apples. Apples were an important source of joy as well as nutrition through a cold winter, as fresh produce became unavailable.

Markham wrote detailed books for use by the householders, the Husbands and the Housewives. And with the coming of frost, you would be advised to look at Markham’s books to ensure the survival of food in your food store. When the frosts hit, as they are now doing in the UK, you had to look after your store of apples, which were an important sweet food source over the winter, and Markham is the source of extensive advice on keeping your food deep into winter.

For the women, he wrote the English Housewife, published in 1615. Here is his recipe for Apple Tart (more of an apple purée tart, I think).

How to Make Apple-tart

Take apples and peel them and slice them thin from the core into a pan with white wine, good store of sugar, cinnamon and rosewater, and so boil it all shall it be thick. Then cool it and strain it, and beat it very well together with a spoon, and then put it into your coffin or crust and bake it. It carrieth with the colour red.

Gervais Markham, the English Housewife 1683 version (quoted by Charles Kightly).

For the men, he wrote the English Husbandsman, published in 1613 and ‘Printed by T. S. for Iohn Browne, and are to be sould at his shop in Saint Dunstanes Church-yard.’ This is the St Dunstan’s in Fleet Street, I think. The book is available on Project Gutenberg (Gervase Markham the English Husbandman. Project Gutenberg).

So to the frost – Markham ends his extensive piece on the best way to store apples as follows:

To keepe Fruit in frost. If the frost be very extreame, and you feare the indangering your fruit, it is good to couer them somewhat thicke with fine hay, or else to lay them couered all ouer either in Barley-chaffe, or dry Salte: as for the laying them in chests of Iuniper, or Cipresse, it is but a toy, and not worth the practise: if you hang Apples in nettes within the ayre of the fire it will kéepe them long, but they will be dry and withered, and will loose their best rellish.

I remember my Grandmother would store her excess apples from the tree, wrapped in paper and stored in cupboards in the pantry or outbuilding. I cannot remember which. They were often wrinkled but always delicious, and I think were Russets, which still remain my favourite apple.

At the bottom of the piece, I include the rest of his advice for storing apples. To summarise it, don’t store them near the ground, and put them on shelves ordered by variety based on which variety lasts longest. So at the back will be the long-lived species such as Russets and Pippins, to eat as spring approaches and at the front the ones you need to eat now such as the ‘Costard, Pome-water, Quéene-Apple‘ varieties.

Markham wrote many books, including one on the famous performing horse Marocco which starred in shows at the Bell Savage, just outside Ludgate in the City of London. Marocco would whinny in triumph with the naming of an English King, and snort with derision with the naming of a Pope, and could count and add up. He was rumoured to have been burnt at the stake as a witch in Edinburgh. But this does not appear to be true. Pocahontas also was shown at the Bell Savage, as was a Rhinoceros and other prodigies.

The Storage of Apples

If you want a more modern text on what to do with excess apples from your tree, have a look here, but do read on to get an insight into life in the 17th Century.

The place where you shall lay your fruit must neither be too open, nor too close, yet rather close then open, it must by no meanes be low vpon the ground, nor in any place of moistnesse: for moisture bréedes fustinesse, and such     naughty smells easily enter into the fruit, and taint the rellish thereof, yet if you haue no other place but some low cellar to lay your fruit in, then you shall raise shelues round about, the nearest not within two foote of the ground, and lay your Apples thereupon, hauing them first lyned, either with swéet Rye-straw, Wheate-straw, or dry ferne: as these vndermost roomes are not the best, so are the vppermost, if they be vnséeld, the worst of all other, because both the sunne, winde, and weather, peircing through the tiles, doth annoy and hurt the fruit: the best roome then is a well séeld chamber, whose windowes may be shut and made close at pleasure, euer obseruing with straw to defend the fruit from any moist stone wall, or dusty mudde wall, both which are dangerous annoyances.

The seperating of Fruit. Now for the seperating of your fruit, you shall lay those nearest hand, which are first to be spent, as those which will last but till Alhallontide, as the Cisling, Wibourne, and such like, by themselues: those which will last till Christmas, as the Costard, Pome-water, Quéene-Apple, and such like: those which will last till Candlemas, as the Pome-de-roy, Goose-Apple, and such like, and those which will last all the yéere, as the Pippin, Duzin, Russetting, Peare-maine, and such like, euery one in his seuerall place, & in such order that you may passe from bed to bed to clense or cast forth those which be rotten or putrefied at your pleasure, which with all diligence you must doe, because those which are tainted will soone poyson the other, and therefore it is necessary as soone as you sée any of them tainted, not onely to cull them out, but also to looke vpon all the rest, and deuide them into thrée parts, laying the soundest by themselues, those which are least tainted by themselues, and those which are most tainted by themselues, and so to vse them all to your best benefit.

Now for the turning of your longest lasting fruit, you shall know that about the latter end of December is the best time to beginne, if you haue both got and kept them in such sort as is before sayd, and not mixt fruit of more     earely ripening amongst them: the second time you shall turne them, shall be about the end of February, and so consequently once euery month, till Penticost, for as the yéere time increaseth in heate so fruit growes more apt to rot: after Whitsontide you shall turne them once euery fortnight, alwayes in your turning making your heapes thinner and thinner; but if the weather be frosty then stirre not your fruit at all, neither when the thaw is, for then the fruit being moist may by no meanes be touched: also in wet weather fruit will be a little dankish, so that then it must be forborne also, and therefore when any such moistnesse hapneth, it is good to open your windowes and let the ayre dry your fruit before it be turned: you may open your windowe any time of the yéere in open weather, as long as the sunne is vpon the skye, but not after, except in March onely, at what time the ayre and winde is so sharpe that it tainteth and riuelleth all sorts of fruits whatsoeuer.

Gervase Markham the English Husbandman Project Gutenberg

St Lucy’s Festival of Light December 13th

Saint Lucy, by Francesco del Cossa (c. 1430 – c. 1477) (Wikipedia User:Postdlf)

The name Lucy is from the same Latin origin (Lucidus) as lucent, lux, and lucid. It means to be bright, or to shine. It is similar to the Ancient Greek λευκός (leukós, “white, blank, light, bright, clear”. Luke has the same origins (bright one, bringer of light and light of the sacred flame) and is very appropriate for the most literate of the evangelists. At this time of the year, we are in need of a festival with bright lights to cheer us up!

And St Lucy’s Day is the beginning of the winter festival that culminates with the Solstice, where the old sun dies, and the new one is born. December the 13th was the Solstice until Pope Gregory reformed the Calendar in the 16th Century, as nine days were lopped off the year of transition.

The festival of Sankta Lucia is particularly popular in Sweden, where Dec 13th is thought to be the darkest night. Every year, the Swedish community in the UK has a service to Lucia in St Pauls. I have several times tried to get tickets, but so far, have failed miserably. But if you look lower down, you will see a link to the beautiful procession and service at St Pauls.

I found out about Sankta Lucia from a Swedish choir who hired me to do a tour of the City of London some years ago. I took them into Christopher Wren’s marvellous St Stephen’s Church and, under the magnificent Dome, they fancied the acoustics and spontaneously sang. I recorded a snatch of it.

Swedish Choir singing in St Stephen’s London

Sankta Lucia at St Paul’s Cathedral (2011)

Recent medical research has shown the importance of light, not only to our mental health but to our sleep health, and recommends that work places need to have a decent light level with ‘blue light’ as a component of the lighting. It is also an excellent idea to help your circadian rhymes by going for a morning walk, or morning sun bathing, even on cloudy days.

St Lucy is from Syracuse in Sicily, said to be a victim of the Diocletian Persecution of Christians in the early 4th Century. She is an authentic early martyr, although details of her story cannot be relied upon as true. She was said to be a virgin, who was denounced as a Christian by her rejected suitor, miraculously saved from serving in a brothel, then, destruction by fire, but did not escape having her eyes gouged out. Finally, her throat was cut with a sword. Her connection to light (and the eye gouging) makes her the protectress against eye disease, and she is often shown holding two eyes in a dish.

St. Aldhelm (English, died in 709) puts St Lucy in the list of the main venerated saints of the early English Church, confirmed by the Venerable Bede (English, died in 735). Her festival was an important one in England ‘as a holy day of the second rank in which no work but tillage or the like was allowed’.[1]

Roman Hoodie ~Part two – the Sequani

Roman tombstone to Philus from Cirencester.

Yesterday I made a long digression which began with a discussion of Roman Winter clothing. Our picture of the hoodie from a tombstone in Cirencester, said it was of

Philus, son of Cassavus, a Sequanian, aged 45, lies buried here.

Roman Inscriptions of Britain.org

One of our readers from France alerted me to the Wikipedia page on the Sequani which explains that the name comes from the Goddess Sequana who is a water goddess. The centre of the territory is Besançon which is on the Doubs River part of the Haute Saône Doubs and near to the springs that are the source of the Seine (west of Dijon). Here, the Fontes Sequanae (“The Springs of Sequana”) gave her name to the River Seine, and a healing spring was established in the 2nd/1st BC. Enlarged by the Romans, it became a significant health centre. as Wikipedia explains in the clip below:

Image of Sequana in a duck boat by Wikipedia FULBERT • CC BY-SA 4.0

‘Many dedications were made to Sequana at her temple, including a large pot inscribed with her name and filled with bronze and silver models of parts of human bodies to be cured by her. Wooden and stone images of limbs, internal organs, heads, and complete bodies were offered to her in the hope of a cure, as well as numerous coins and items of jewellery. Respiratory illnesses and eye diseases were common. Pilgrims were frequently depicted as carrying offerings to the goddess, including money, fruit, or a favourite pet dog or bird.’

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequana

First Posted on December 13th, 2022, updated on December 13th 2023