Of British invasions and medieval haunts

As a followup to Hitler’s Armada, I read Frank McLynn’s Invasion from the Armada to Hitler, a history of planned attempts to invade the British isles, and has an interesting mixture of deep background and absurd simplification.  McLynn begins by discussing the challenges facing any would-be invader of Britain, like the turbulent channel weather,   and the reasons powers might have for risking such a venture  —  continental power struggles, chiefly, but economic competition later on.   McLynn is comprehensive when he dives into matters like the wars of Spanish and Austrian succession,  to provide context for why foreign powers would risk invasion of Britain, but simplistic when he reduces the American revolution to mere economic competition.   Most of the pre-Napoleonic shenanigans relate to the Jacobins, the supporters of the Stuart  claim after James II was run out of England on the grounds of being too Catholic, and the protestant William of Orange and his wife Queen Mary (James’ daughter) were asked to take charge.   The continental powers who viewed England as a rival or an obstacle to their own aims thought to use Jacobin uprisings against the non-Stuart kings to both distract Britain and to possibly create in it an ally should the uprisings succeed. I didn’t realize how many times Spain and France had contemplated a landing in Britain, so this survey was helpful — but McLynn asserts that Peter the Great of Russia wanted to invaded Scotland (more Jacobin fun), which is not something I can substantiate anywhere. I’ve no doubt he has his reasons for believing this: he’s not an unserious historian, and has a laundry list of titles to his name, including the very thorough biography of Marcus Aurelius which I read twelve years ago.    

On an entirely different field, indeed in another plane of existence, we have The Tailor and the Three Dead Kings, Dan Jones’ adaptation of a short medieval horror story – what we moderns would regard as horror, anyway – dating to the early 15th century.   Jones begins the short work with an introduction to the text, describing how some unknown monk had copied a few short stories into the blank pages of a book containing copies of classical pieces from Cicero and the like.  These were found by a classicist, M.R. James, and now the longest has been adapted into a short story by Jones, with names created for previously anonymous characters.   Even the most laconic summary would threaten to spoil the plot of this very-short work, but I’ll give it the ol’ college try.  Late one evening a humble tailor is making his way home when  he and his horse Borin are overtaken by an  overpowering  feeling,  the air glowing with strange light and filled with menace, and the tailor is confronted by something not of this world – and given instructions.  Although the story is quite short,   its surreal goings-on and Jones’ adding of flavor with the medieval-esque dialogue succeeded in making it most interesting.  

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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3 Responses to Of British invasions and medieval haunts

  1. It makes me so happy whenever I see Dan Jones pop up on all my blogger buddy blogs 🙂

    It was such a weird little story, I loved it.

  2. Pingback: April 2023 in Review | Reading Freely

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