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English Language and History

The brief stories below are taken from history, myth or fiction. Each one is accompanied by games and exercises in essential grammar and free composition, based on old school textbooks.

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Fair Rosamund
two-part story
Music: Marie de France; Bernart de Ventadorn
Charles Dickens tells the story of King Henry II and the enchantingly beautiful Rosamund Clifford.
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)

THERE is a pretty story told of this Reign, called the story of Fair Rosamond. It relates how the King doted on Fair Rosamond, who was the loveliest girl in all the world; and how he had a beautiful Bower built for her in a Park at Woodstock; and how it was erected in a labyrinth, and could only be found by a clue of silk.

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Six Posts
The Alleluia Victory
Music: George Frideric Handel
How hard-pressed Christians on the Welsh border won a battle without bloodshed.
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)

EARLY in the 5th century, Christian villagers on the Welsh borders were being harried by pagan Picts and Saxons. And now, just after Easter in the year 429, the little community learnt that an army was on its way to murder them all.

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The Lion and the Ant
two-part story
Music: Anonymous; King Richard I, the Lionheart
Richard I thought a veteran Crusader and conqueror of Saladin could handle a few French peasants.

KING Richard I of England gained his nickname of ‘Lionheart’ in the Holy Land, fighting to liberate Jerusalem from the ruling Muslims. In this he narrowly failed, but returned to his estates in France (he rarely spent time in England) in 1194 a hero, having conquered Cyprus, defeated his arch-enemy Saladin in battle, and been expensively ransomed out of the hands of a disgruntled former ally, Leopold of Austria.

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The Battle of Neville’s Cross
Music: Charles Avison
Ralph Neville spoiled David of Scotland’s alliance with France in the Hundred Years’ War

FOLLOWING a heavy defeat at the Battle of Crécy on the 26th of August, 1346, King Philip VI of France appealed to the Scottish King David II to honour the ‘Auld Alliance’, and help him by harassing England from the north.

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The Arts of Fair Rowena
two-part story
Music: George Frideric Handel
Charles Dickens believed that Britain’s Saxon invaders gained power by force of arms – but not by weapons.
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)

THEY sent a letter to Rome entreating help — which they called the Groans of the Britons; and in which they said, ‘The barbarians chase us into the sea, the sea throws us back upon the barbarians, and we have only the hard choice left us of perishing by the sword, or perishing by the waves.’

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Richard of York: One Hand on the Throne
two-part story
Music: John Stanley
The Wars of the Roses pitted two royal houses against each other for the crown of England.
Based on an account by Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)

KING Henry VI suffered from periodic insanity, and his Queen, Margaret of Anjou, was the power behind his throne.

Neither was popular. Many people were glad that after capturing the King at St Albans on May 22nd, 1455, Richard, Duke of York, left Margaret no choice but to reinstate him as Lord Protector, governing in Henry’s stead.

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The Nine-Day Queen
Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams
Lady Jane Grey’s accession was almost instantly overturned.

JUST before the young King Edward VI, son of Henry VIII, died in 1553, he unexpectedly named Lady Jane Grey as his successor, passing over his half-sisters Elizabeth and Mary.

Jane was Edward’s cousin once removed: Edward’s grandfather King Henry VII was her great-grandfather.

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All Posts
Tagged Mediaeval History (58 posts)
page 1
1 Fair Rosamund
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Charles Dickens tells the story of King Henry II and the enchantingly beautiful Rosamund Clifford.
2 The Lion and the Ant
Richard I thought a veteran Crusader and conqueror of Saladin could handle a few French peasants.
3 The Arts of Fair Rowena
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Charles Dickens believed that Britain’s Saxon invaders gained power by force of arms – but not by weapons.
4 Birds of Paradise
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Northumbrian poet Cynewulf paints a word-picture of heaven and the seraph-band that swoops and soars before the throne.
5 Lambert Simnel
Henry VII must decide how to deal with a boy calling himself ‘King Edward VI’.
6 The Last Commandment
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Northumbrian poet Cynewulf imagines the farewell between Jesus and his Apostles, forty days after his resurrection.
page 2
7 The Battle of Nechtansmere
King Ecgfrith of Northumbria dismissed repeated warnings about his imperial ambitions.
8 At Heaven’s Gate
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
The eighth-century English bishop and poet Cynewulf takes us to the threshold of God’s holy city, and gives us a choice.
9 The Six Leaps of Faith
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
The eighth-century English bishop and poet Cynewulf explores a prophecy from the Song of Solomon.
10 Annunciation
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Cynewulf reflects on the mystery of the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary.
11 The Battle of Brunanburh
Athelstan confirmed himself as King of the English, and also reawakened a feeling that all Britain should be a united people.
12 The Battle of the Standard
Scottish King David I hoped to exploit the unpopularity of the Normans by trading on his own English heritage.
page 3
13 The Voyage of ‘Golden Hinde’
Elizabethan adventurer Sir Francis Drake combined sailing round the world with really annoying the King of Spain.
14 Wenceslaus: A Life for a Life
The murder of the ‘good king Wenceslas’ led to a flowering of Christian faith in Europe.
15 Gytha and Vladimir
Scandinavian tradition says that the daughter of King Harold was consort to one the great rulers of Kievan Rus’.
16 Mary Queen of Scots
Henry VII’s great-granddaughter Mary never grasped that even royalty must win the people’s respect.
17 The Battle of Agincourt
One of the best-known of all battles in English history, but not because of the conflict of which it was a part.
18 Gregory and the Slave Children
How some English slave children sparked the conversion of Britain to Christianity.
page 4
19 Our Lady’s Mantle
Shortly after Askold and Dir founded Kiev in 862, they launched a brazen but ill-fated assault on the capital of the Roman Empire.
20 Merchants of Muscovy
In 1553, Richard Chancellor set out on a perilous voyage to Russia in order to bypass the Hanseatic League’s single market.
21 Sir Walter Raleigh
Sir Walter’s dizzy life brought him fame and fortune in dangerous places, the most dangerous of which was Court.
22 Britain and the Tsars
Britain’s ties to the rulers of Russia go back to the time of the Norman Invasion.
23 Flodden Edge
The Scots paid a heavy price for honouring their ‘Auld Alliance’ with France.
24 The Kings of Northumbria
Out of a restless alliance between two 6th century kingdoms came a civilisation that defined Englishness.
page 5
25 Vinland
Based on
The Saga of Eric the Red
Scandinavian warrior Leif Ericson was sent to bring Christianity to Greenland, but accidentally discovered North America instead.
26 The Re-rediscovery of America
John Day of Bristol did not want Christopher Columbus to labour under a misapprehension.
27 Turning the Tide
By Henry of Huntingdon
(?1088-?1157)
King Canute enacted a memorable demonstration of the limits of government power.
28 The Last English King
The Normans conquered England in 1066, and the country would never be the same again.
29 Kings and Queens: Alfred to Ethelred
England’s rulers from the only one named ‘the Great’, to the king who lost his crown to the Danes.
30 Wulfstan and the Seal of Approval
Based on an account by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
William the Conqueror’s purge of the English Church was halted by a humble bishop and a dead king.
page 6
31 The Fall of Constantinople
Hospitality and sympathy, but no help - the Byzantine Emperor learns a bitter lesson about western diplomacy.
32 The Nine-Day Queen
Lady Jane Grey’s accession was almost instantly overturned.
33 The Spanish Armada
Philip of Spain’s attempt to teach Elizabeth I a lesson did not go as planned.
34 The Langbaurgh Charter
Peter de Brus and his tenants agreed to work together after King John ordered a crackdown on unpaid rents.
35 St George, Patron Saint of England
George was born in Israel and served in the Roman army, yet makes an ideal patron for England.
36 The Signing of the Great Charter
King John promised his nobles respect, but he was not a man to regard his word as his bond.
page 7
37 Welcome to Micklegarth
After the Norman Conquest, thousands of worried Englishmen departed for a new life in the Byzantine world.
38 High Beneath Heaven’s Roof
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
The Cross of Christ speaks, and tells of the amazing transformation from sign of shame to sign of redemption.
39 Alfred Learns To Read
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Even as a child, King Alfred couldn’t resist a challenge.
40 King Edwin and the Hand of Destiny
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
Forced from his throne and threatened with murder, Edwin makes a curious bargain for his deliverance.
41 The Tichborne Dole
The strange-but-true story of a Lady Day tradition.
42 Richard of York: One Hand on the Throne
Based on an account by Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
The Wars of the Roses pitted two royal houses against each other for the crown of England.
page 8
43 The Wars of the Roses
A struggle between rival Royal Houses during the 15th century
44 King Henry II
The great-grandson of William the Conqueror, whose knights assassinated Thomas Becket and whose family harried him to an early grave.
45 The Disaster of the White Ship
The loss of the heir to the throne threw England into crisis.
46 The Alleluia Victory
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
How hard-pressed Christians on the Welsh border won a battle without bloodshed.
47 The Gift Thrice Given
By Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
A story about William the Conqueror’s father, Robert the Magnificent.
48 How Alfred Burnt the Cakes
By Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
A popular tale of scorched cakes and a scolded king.
page 9
49 Edith and Edward
Based on an account by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
A King and Queen gentler than the times in which they lived.
50 The Hermit of Handbridge
By Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
King Harold died at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Or did he?
51 The Battle of the Winwaed
In 655, the future of England as a Christian nation hung by the slenderest of threads.
52 The Selfless Courage of Leo the Cook
In 6th century France, a faithful kitchen servant sold himself into slavery to rescue a kidnapped boy.
53 The Assassination of Thomas Becket
Four knights thought they were helping their King, but they could not have made a greater mistake.
54 The Tale of Dick Whittington
The 14th century Mayor of London owed his fortune (and his wife) to his cat.
page 10
55 The Battle of Neville’s Cross
Ralph Neville spoiled David of Scotland’s alliance with France in the Hundred Years’ War
56 The Peasants’ Revolt
In 1381, fourteen-year-old King Richard II was faced with a popular uprising against excessive taxation and government meddling in the labour market.
57 Black Agnes Dunbar
When Edward III sent the Earl of Salisbury to take her absent husband’s castle, Agnes brushed his attack aside - literally.
58 The Daring Escape of Richard the Fearless
Based on a story by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
The ten-year-old got away from a royal castle disguised as a bundle of hay.
Authors
Cynewulf (8th century)
6 posts
Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
3 posts
Henry of Huntingdon (?1088-?1157)
1 post
Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901)
2 posts
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Active or Passive?

Use each of the verbs below in either the active or the passive form. Can you use both forms?

Grant. Tour. Judge.

The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone explains that a truly ‘exceptional nation’ respects the equality and rights of all nations.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone warns voters not to leave foreign policy in the hands of interventionist politicians.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson won the admiration of French navvies by showing them how a Geordie works a shovel.
Cut
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Polyword ‘Don’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with COAL and finish with FIRE.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with NOTE and finish with BOOK.
Do you know ‘conclusive evidence’ (5 letters), and ‘perceptive realisation’ (6 letters)?
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Do you know ‘withdraw’ (7 letters), and ‘domesticated’ (4 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
top topics
History (375)
Fiction (80)

letters game

What is the longest word you can make using these letters?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

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numbers game

Make the total shown using two or more of the numbers underneath it. You can add, subtract, divide and multiply. Use any number once only.

More like this: Maths Gym Mental arithmetic