Things we forgot to remember

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I’m interested to see whether this year’s Last Night of the Proms (on Saturday 9 September) takes up last year’s invented tradition when a good number of European flags mingled in with the Union Jacks as everyone bellowed out Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory.

Only a country which hasn’t been invaded since 1066 could show such confidence. But we’re also very good at forgetting our own history. In 1216, nobles in dispute with King John invited a French invasion force into Kent. The French leader, Louis, was proclaimed king in London, before being kicked out by the same barons, who switched sides after John died.
Then in 1688 during the Glorious Revolution, William of Orange arrived with a flotilla of 463 ships, twice the size of the Spanish Armada. He and his wife Mary replaced James II. By invitation maybe, but a full scale and successful military invasion nevertheless.

My own faulty memory attributed bad King John’s death to eating a surfeit of lampreys but in fact it was his grandfather Henry I who over-snacked on too many of these hosepipes with teeth and paid the price. Incidentally the word is that Henry was buried in Reading Abbey in 1135. The site is now under a built up part of the town. Plans are afoot to try and locate his grave, which might lead to another case of finding a king under a car park.

Exciting times and another excuse to celebrate our history by waving flags of many nations – especially since it’s likely that the only language Henry ever spoke was French.

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