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The Norman Conquest



The Norman Conquest was the invasion and occupation of England by Duke William II of Normandy. William claimed he was the rightful heir to the childless King Edward the Confessor. This was because Edward the Confessor’s grandfather was William’s great grandfather.  However, after Edward’s death in January 1066, the throne was seized by Edward’s brother in law, Harold Godwinson.
Other Claimants
William was not the only other claimant to the throne. In September 1066 King Harald Hardrada of Norway invaded northern England because he wanted to be king. Harold marched to meet Harald and on the 25th of September 1066 Harald Hardrada was defeated and killed at Battle of Stamford Bridge.
Within days of this victory William landed in southern England and Harold had to rush to meet him. However, he left a significant part of his army in the north, which meant he did not have enough soldiers to help him. Harold’s army confronted William’s invaders on the 14th of October at the Battle of Hastings. Harold was defeated and killed in the engagement which meant Duke William became King William the Conqueror.    

Old Scarlett



‘Old Scarlett’ was Robert Scarlett, parish sexton and gravedigger throughout the Tudor period. He lived to the prodigious age of 98, dying in 1594, married twice and buried Katharine of Aragon and Mary, Queen of Scots inside the Cathedral. Amongst the hundreds of people that Scarlett buried during his lifetime was one ‘Edward the Foole’, a native of Crowland by birth and former court jester to King Henry VIII, laid to rest here in 1563. As was common practice at the time, and to allow for more burials in an already packed graveyard, the skeleton would have been exhumed some years later and the bones reburied in stacks. The image of an elderly gravedigger exhuming a royal jester’s skull might have stuck in the head of a Peterborough schoolboy, John Fletcher, the son of the then Cathedral Dean. Fletcher went on to become a noted Elizabethan playwright and worked with Shakespeare, even co-writing three plays with him, including the aforementioned ‘Henry VIII’. Is it possible that Fletcher may have suggested this scene to Shakespeare? Unfortunately ‘Hamlet’ was written between 1599 and 1601, and we have no evidence that the two men met until at least five years later, but it’s a tantalising thought nonetheless!


Richard III Born at Fotheringhay



Richard of Gloucester, later Richard III of England was born at Fotheringhay Castle.  He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. He was the supposed killer of 'The Princes in the Tower', his nephews Edward and Richard, the sons of his brother King Edward IV, and was portrayed as a villain in William Shakespeare's play 'Richard III'. He died at the Battle of Bosworth Field beaten by Henry Tudor, Henry VII, the first of the Tudor dynasty, so ending the War of the Roses. In 2012 Richard III's body was found buried under a car park in Leicester.

Birth of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu



Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was born in May 1689, the eldest child of the future 1st Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull. She married, against her father's wishes, Sir Edward Wortley Montagu, who was later twice MP for Peterborough. Lady Mary is today chiefly remembered for her letters, particularly her letters from travels to the Ottoman Empire, when her husband was the British ambassador to Turkey. These witty and well observed missives, as well as her other writings demonstrate that she deserves to be better known as a great writer. Aside from her writing, Lady Mary is also known for introducing and championing smallpox inoculation (variolation) to Britain, which she had seen demonstrated during her time in Turkey. She had a great interest in the disease as she herself had suffered from it and was left badly scarred, and her brother died from it. Innoculation remained controversial and in later years was replaced by Edward Jenner's much safer technique of vaccination using cowpox rather than smallpox itself. Lady Mary died on 21st August 1762 of breast cancer having recently returned from Venice to London. Edward Wortley Montague had died the year before. Their names are remembered in the Wortley Arms, originally the Wortley Almshouse.

Woodcroft Manor’s Royal Owner



Woodcroft Castle used to be known as Woodcroft Manor. It dates back to the twelfth century and appears frequently in court papers over the centuries. It is best well-known for the Civil War siege and death of Dr Michael Hudson, but it has a much better connection. On 6th October 1570 Woodcroft Mansion house was referred to as having been 'purchased of the late King Edward VI'. Many of the local manors have been owned by monarchs, often being given as presents. However the ownership of Woodcroft might suggest that it was once much more important than it is now. Indeed, in 1575 the manor was valued at £15, 6 shillings and 8 pence, which was more than Milton Manor.