How I Found the Whole History of England Hidden in One Village; Rampaging Romans, the Black Death, a Civil War Bloodbath ... the Man Behind a Brilliant New TV Series Reveals How a Tiny Parish Was Shaped by These Great Events
Byline: by Michael Wood
AS SNOWFLAKES swirled around the peasants' houses in the depths of January 1414, a travelweary horseman galloped up the muddy lanes of the Leicestershire village of Kibworth Harcourt. After a frantic two-day ride from London, the messenger was cold and exhausted.
But he lost no time in leaping from his horse and rushing straight across the cattle yard and into one of the timber-framed farms on Main Street. For he had terrible news to impart to the woman of the house.
Emma Gilbert, a widowed merchant's wife, hailed from one of the oldest and most respected families in Kibworth. She had a daughter, Alice, and a number of grandchildren. Perhaps they were at Emma's side when the messenger delivered his blow: her sons, Walter and Nicholas, had been executed in London.
Their deaths would have been an appalling shock for the family, residents of Kibworth for more than a century and pillars of the community.
Earlier that year, the two brothers had left the village to take part in an extraordinarily dangerous rebellion against the new English King, Henry V, and against the whole edifice of the Catholic Church. But it had failed disastrously.
Soon to be hailed as the victor of Agincourt, young Henry was far too skilled a soldier to be caught unawares by such a poorly hatched plan. The rebels had raised nowhere near the hoped-for 20,000 men and had been easily crushed.
The King was merciful to most of the defeated -- after a few months in Newgate Prison, many were pardoned and sent home -- but a terrible fate awaited Walter and Nicholas.
For Walter was an itinerant heretic preacher who had been spreading the virulently anti-clerical teachings of the so-called Lollard movement -- who believed the Pope was an anti-Christ -- in the villages of Leicestershire and Derbyshire.
Both brothers were condemned as heretics. Taken to St Giles Fields in London, they were first hanged and then burned while still alive.
Not for the first time (and …
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Publication information: Article title: How I Found the Whole History of England Hidden in One Village; Rampaging Romans, the Black Death, a Civil War Bloodbath ... the Man Behind a Brilliant New TV Series Reveals How a Tiny Parish Was Shaped by These Great Events. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: Daily Mail (London). Publication date: October 2, 2010. Page number: 62. © 2007 Daily Mail. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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