In the third and final play-off, some personal favourites come to blows in the battle for the final place in the Grand Final. Alfred the Great flies the flag for the Anglo-Saxons while Edward I and his grandson Edward III hold their swords aloft for the Plantagenets. Read on for more information about the three contenders and how you can help to decide who will go through to the final.
The play-offs operate under a three college electoral system – Graham is one college, Ali is another college and you, the rest of the world, are the third college. Things get tougher in the semi-finals, though, as now you can only vote for ONE monarch, so have a read of the summaries below, listen to our podcast episode and have a good think about who you want to go through to the Grand Final, then cast your vote in the link below. The deadline for voting is Thursday 12 June, so make sure you vote before the deadline closes!
Alfred the Great was the very first monarch that we reviewed and has a lot to commend him. Following an inauspicious start in which he was chased out of his kingdom by the Vikings before notoriously being eliminated from the Great British Bake Off, things weren’t looking too good. The Vikings had all-but conquered England and all that remained was Alfred hiding in a swamp. However, not only did Alfred emerge to defeat the Vikings at the Battle of Edington but he created a new and lasting England. His system of burhs not only prevented future Viking attacks but also saw the re-establishment of urban living, including refounding the city of London. Determined to better the lives of his subjects, Alfred introduced a national system of education for a largely illiterate nation, not least learning to speak Latin so that he could personally translate great works into English (making their lessons understandable to the whole population and not just the elite). Despite these myriad achievements, Alfred does have some detractors – one Ali Hood would point out that it was not until Alfred’s grandson (Athelstan) came to the fore that England’s full borders were established and Alfred’s biographer seems to have censored any juicy scandal from his patron’s biography, which is frankly very disappointing!
Even by the rug-chewing rage standards of the Plantagenet dynasty, Edward I was a man with anger management issues. Not only did he tear out strands of his son’s hair for trying to promote a low-born favourite, not only did he chase his hunting companion across a river with his sword drawn for losing control of his falcon, but he was so intimidating in argument that an elderly dean at St. Paul’s actually died in his presence! Tall, strong and relentless in his goals, never developing a stoop even in old age, Edward I was a powerful and intimidating character. As king, he conquered Wales with brilliantly organised campaigns and the building of magnificent castles, while in government he was known as the English Justinian for the high number of new laws enacted in his reign and his surprisingly effective and patient relations with Parliament. However, it wasn’t all plain-sailing for Edward. He was devastated by the death of his wife, Eleanor of Castille, building 12 crosses across England in her memory. His grand ambition of partaking in a glorious Crusade was limited to recovering in bed after being attacked by an assassin with a poisoned dagger (albeit having first killed said assassin!) while his early dominance over Scotland was undermined first by William Wallace and finally by Robert the Bruce, making his “Hammer of the Scots” title slightly dubious.
If your image of English history is of medieval knights engaged in tournaments and fighting the French amidst pageantry, camaraderie and boy’s own adventuring, then Edward III is your perfect king! Edward came to the throne at 14 after the deposition of his father by Roger Mortimer (and Edward’s own mother, Isabella of France) and was dangerously under Mortimer’s thumb until a thrilling rescue by his young knight friends at Nottingham Castle. Such adventure proved fitting for Edward’s reign, as he united the nobility with a chivalric, Athurian court of tournaments, chivalry and, ultimately, the Hundred Years War against France. Incredibly against-the-odds victories included the naval battle of Sluys, the triumph of the longbows at Crecy and the capture of the French king at Poitiers. Edward and his knights fought bravely and by the 1360s Edward owned a significant chunk of France, had re-established dominance over Scotland and presided over a united England. Tragically, however, Edward suffered the misfortune of not dying soon enough. The country suffered the Black Death in 1348 (followed by numerous other plague outbreaks), with punitive measures against the peasantry storing up troubles that would lead to the Peasants Revolt shortly after Edward’s reign. As he grew old, his old companions started to die off, most tragically his beloved son, the Black Prince, while Edward himself was debilitated by a series of strokes. When he died after 50 years on the throne, all the territories he had won in France had been lost.
So those are the three monarchs – only one of them can make it through to the final so your vote could be crucial. Listen to the podcast to hear Graham and Ali debate it in more detail, but if you’re mind is made up then follow the link below to cast your vote: