So What Did the Ever Do for Us? to Mark Britain's Foremost History Festival, an Intriguing Question.(Apart from Give Us Our Laws, Our Language AND Save Us from the French!)

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 3, 2016 | Go to article overview

So What Did the Ever Do for Us? to Mark Britain's Foremost History Festival, an Intriguing Question.(Apart from Give Us Our Laws, Our Language AND Save Us from the French!)


Byline: DAN JONES HISTORIAN AND TV PRESENTER

THIS summer, The Mail on Sunday will be supporting the Chalke Valley History Festival, Britain's premier history event, sponsored by the Daily Mail. And as an exclusive preview, Mail on Sunday readers are today offered the chance to join a private evening celebrating the importance of history in modern Britain. Here, one of our evening's eminent speakers explains the neglected legacy of the most successful Royal house in British history

WILLIAM Mar shal, Earl of Pembroke, was about 70 years old and by his own reckoning still the great est knight in England. As he sat astride his horse outside the walls of Lincoln on Saturday, May 20, 1217, he faced the biggest test of his glorious career - a battle that would secure England's future as an independent realm rather than a mere province of France.

Lincoln was one of the great cities of a medieval England ripped in two by civil war. Behind its stone walls lay an enemy army made up of traitors and Frenchmen attacking its castle. Marshal, regent to the child king, Henry III, was there to drive them out with an outnumbered army.

It was a fight to the death and Marshal commanded his knights to be ready to kill their horses and use the corpses to build barricades. And they won a stunning victory, reliev ing the besieged loyalists in Lincoln castle. The highest-ranking French man, the Count of Perche, was killed by a sword thrust through the visor hole of his helmet. Lincoln was saved and so was England.

Had things gone differently, the Battle of Lincoln would have ranked alongside the Battle of Hastings. Had Marshal lost, the son of the king of France, a warrior known as Louis the Lion, would have been our King Louis I. It is astonishing how close he came. Louis had crossed the Channel in 1216 to take the crown from King John, the tyrant who had been forced to grant Magna Carta but refused to stick to its terms.

His enemies - a coalition of Eng lish barons and bishops - asked Louis to replace him. Had he succeeded, Louis, who duly inherited the French crown as Louis VIII, would have been king of England and France.

That's why the Battle of Lincoln was so important. It was the first step towards keeping the crowns of England and France separate. It also guaranteed the survival of the Plan tagenet dynasty, the most long-reign ing and arguably the most important royal house in English history.

The Plantagenets were originally from Anjou - a French county. But their 331-year rule over England, from 1154 to 1485, lay the founda tions of modern England and had a profound effect on the rest of what we now call the United Kingdom.

The Plantagenets gave us the basis for the English legal system. …

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