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A Window into War: Battles fought by British Kings

Her Majesty The Queen is the epitome of grandeur and magnificence. She lives in the lap of luxury, and is always impeccably dressed, and surrounded by splendour. Which makes it hard to believe that there was a time when her ancestors, Kings of England themselves, spent months on end living in squalor, wallowing in mud, and eating food that was barely fit for animals.

And yet they did, for those were the conditions that war forced them into. During the Middle Ages, Kings were more than just rulers who sat on thrones and issued directives – they were warriors who led their men into battle to defend their honour, or take what they believed was theirs by right. Many a King held his crown by the right of his sword, but not all managed to secure it, resulting in years of conflict.

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry depicting William the Conqueror's victory in the Battle of Hastings.

A scene from the Bayeux Tapestry depicting William the Conqueror’s victory in the Battle of Hastings.

Indeed, the ascension to the throne of William the Conqueror, an event which forms the very basis of English history, came about as the result of a battle – the Battle of Hastings. The first Norman King of England came to the throne after he defeated the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II in 1066, and as the years progressed, more and more of his descendants were forced to fight for the throne – against the French, against the Scottish, and sometimes even against each other – until, finally, Henry Tudor defeated King Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth, making him the last Monarch to die in battle.

Some Kings like Richard I and Edward III were the keenest of fighters, with the former embarking on a Crusade to recover the Holy Land in the 12th century, and the latter staking a claim to the French throne, thus beginning what would go on to become the Hundred Years’ War. King Henry V, another great military leader, commanded his troops during the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, one of the most remarkable English victories in history. Others were less inclined to battle, but were often left with no choice but to face their enemies and defend their throne.

This year marks the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

This year marks the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

Despite being deplorable and even avoidable, these battles have gone down in history. Nearly every Englishman understands the significance of the year 1066, or the Battle of Bosworth. But what really happened during these years of armed conflict?

Follow along over the next four weeks, and find out as we dive into the past and relive the action and the adventure; the guts and the glory; the scandal and political intrigue; and experience some of the greatest victories of all time, which, for the exultant King, made the years of toil and struggle worth it.

Photo credit: John McLinden and CircaSassy via Flickr