1066 and All That
Walter Carruthers Sellar and Robert Julian Yeatman

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1066 and All That
A Memorable History of England

Comprising All the Parts You Can Remember Including One Hundred and Three Good Things, Five Bad Kings, and Two Genuine Dates

Copyright © 1931 by E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.
Copyright Renewal, © 1958 by Robert Julian Yeatman

Compulsory Preface

(This Means You)

Histories have previously been written with the object of exalting their authors. The object of this History is to console the reader. No other history does this.

History is not what you thought. It is what you can remember. All other history defeats itself.

This is the only Memorable History of England, because all the History that you can remember is in this book, which is the result of years of research in golf-clubs, gun-rooms, green-rooms, etc.

For instance, 2 out of the 4 Dates originally included were eliminated at the last moment, a research done at the Eton and Harrow match having revealed that they are not memorable.



Chapter ICæsar Invades Britain

Julius Cæsar was therefore compelled to invade Britain again the following year (54 B.C., not 56, owing to the peculiar Roman method of counting), and having defeated the Ancient Britons by unfair means, such as battering-rams, tortoises, hippocausts, centipedes, axes and bundles, set the memorable Latin sentence, “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” which the Romans, who were all very well educated, construed correctly.

The Britons, however, who of course still used the old pronunciation, understanding him to have called them “Weeny, Weedy and Weaky,” lost heart and gave up the struggle, thinking that he had already divided them All into Three Parts.

Chapter IIBritain Conquered Again The withdrawal of the Roman legions to take part in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (due to a clamour among the Romans for pompous amusements such as bread and circumstances) left Britain defenceless and subjected Europe to that long succession of Waves of which History is chiefly composed.
Humiliation of the Britons Memorable among the Saxon warriors were Hengist and his wife (? or horse), Horsa. Hengist made himself King in the South. Thus Hengist was the first English King and his wife (or horse), Horsa, the first English Queen (or horse). The country was now almost entirely inhabited by Saxons and was therefore renamed England, and thus (naturally) soon became C. of E.
Chapter VAlfred the Cake King Alfred was the first Good King, with the exception of Good King Wenceslas, who, though he looked forth, really came first (it is not known, however, what King Wenceslas was King of). Alfred ought never to be confused with King Arthur, equally memorable but probably non-existent and therefore perhaps less important historically (unless he did exist).
Chapter VIILady Windermere. Age of Lake Dwellers Alfred had a very interesting wife called Lady Windermere (The Lady of the Lake), who was always clothed in the same white frock, and used to go bathing with Sir Launcelot (also of the Lake) and was thus a Bad Queen. It was also in King Arthur’s time that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was published: this was the first English newspaper and had all the news about his victories, and Lady Windermere, and the Cakes, etc.
Chapter VIIIEthelread the Unready. A Weak King Rather than wait for him the Danes used to fine him large sums called Danegeld, for not being ready. But though they were always ready, the Danes had very bad memories and often used to forget that they had been paid the Danegeld and come back for it almost before they had sailed away. By that time Ethelread was always unready again.
Chapter XEdward the Confessor

It was about this time that the memorable Mac Beth (“Ian Hay”), known as the Bane of Fife, murdered a number of his enemies, including Mac Duff, Lord Dunsinaney, Sleep, etc.

Edward the Confessor was with difficultiy prevented from confessing to all these and many other crimes committed in his reign [...]

Ian Hay

Test Paper I

Up to the End of 1066
  1. Discuss, in latin or gothic (but not both), whether the Northumbrian Bishops were more schismatical than the Cumbrian Abbots. (Be bright.)
  2. Which came first, A.D. or B.C.? (Be careful.)
  3. Has it never occurred to you that the Romans counted backwards? (Be honest.)
  4. How angry would you be if it was suggested
    1. That the XIth Chap. of the Consolations of Boethius was an interpolated palimpsest?
    2. That an eisteddfod was an agricultural implement?
  5. How would you have attempted to deal with
    1. The Venomous Bead?
    2. A Mabinogion or Wapentake? (Be quick.)
Chapter XIDoomsday Book and the Forests

William next invented a system according to which everybody had to belong to somebody else, and everybody else to the King. This was called the Feutile System, and in order to prove that it was true he wrote a book called the Doomsday Book, which contained an inventory of all the Possessions of all his subjects; after reading the book through carefully William agreed with it and signed it, indicating to everybody that the Possessions mentioned in it were now his.


Books (particular)

Chapter XIIRufus. A Ruddy King Rufus was hunting one day in the New Forest, when William Tell (the memorable crackshot, inventor of Cross-bow puzzles) took unerring aim at a reddish apple, which had fallen on to the King’s head, and shot him through the heart. Sir Isaac Walton, who happened to be present at the time, thereupon invented the Law of Gravity.
Chapter XIIIHenry I. A Tragic King Henry tried to console himself for his loss by eating a surfeit of palfreys. This was a Bad Thing since he died of it and never smiled again.
Chapter XVHenry II. A Just King

Henry II was a great Lawgiver, and it was he who laid down the great Legal Principle that everything is either legal or (preferably) illegal.

He also made another very just arrangement about trials:—

Before Henry II’s time there were two kinds of legal trial, (a) the Ideal and (b) the Combat. The Ideal form of trial consisted in making a man plunge his head in boiling ploughshares, in order to see whether he had committed a crime or not. According to Henry’s reformed system a man was tried first by a jury of his equals and only had to plunge his head into the ploughshares afterwards (in order to confirm the jury’s opinion that he had committed the crime). This was obviously a much Better Thing.

The Combat was a system by which in civil cases the litigants decided their dispute by mortal combat, after which the defeated party was allowed to fly the country.



Chapter XVIIThe Story of Blondin This was when Richard had been caught by the blind King of Bohemia during a game of Blind King’s Bluff and sold to the Holy Roman Terror. Blondin eventually found him by singing the memorable song (or “touralay”) called “O Richard et mon Droit” (“Are you right there, Richard?”) which Richard himself had composed.
Chapter XVIIIThe Bull

John was so bad that the Pope decided to put the whole country under an Interdict, i.e. he gave orders that no one was to be born or die or marry (except in Church porches). But John was still not cured of his Badness; so the Pope sent a Bull to England to excommunicate John himself. In spite of the King’s efforts to prevent it the Bull succeeded in landing and gave orders that John himself was not to be born or marry or die (except in Church porches); that no one was to obey him or stand him a drink or tell him the right time or the answer to the Irish Question or anything nice.

Chapter XIXMagna Charter By congregating there, armed to the teeth, the Barons compelled John to sign the Magna Charter, which said:
  1. That no one was to be put to death, save for some reason—(except the Common People).
  2. That everyone should be free—(except the Common People).
  3. That everything should be of the same weight and measure throughout the Realm—(except the Common People).


Magna Carta

Chapter XXRobin Hood and His Merrie Men

Amongst his Merrie Men were Will Scarlet (The Scarlet Pimpernel), Black Beauty, White Melville, Little Red Riding Hood (probably an outdaughter of his) and the famous Friar Puck who used to sit in a cowslip and suck bees, thus becoming so fat that he declared he could put his girdle round the Earth.

Robin Hood was a miraculous shot with the longbow and it is said that he could split a hare at 400 paces and a Sheriff at 800. [...]

Robin Hood was also very good at socialism and often took money away from rich clergymen and gave it to the poor, who loved him for his generosity.

Test Paper II

Up to the End of Henry III
  1. Arrange in this order:
    1. Henry I.
    2. Henry II.
    3. Henry III.
    (Do not attempt to answer more than once.)
  1. How would you dispose of
    1. A Papal Bull?
    2. Your nephews?
    3. Your mother? (Be brutal.)
  2. Which would you rather be
    1. The Sheriff of Nottingham?
    2. A Weak King?
    3. Put to the Sword?
Chapter XXIIEdward I. A Strong King

Edward I was thus a strong King, and one of the first things he did was to make a strong arrangement about the Law Courts. Hitherto there had been a number of Benches there, on all of which a confused official called the Justinian had tried to sit. Edward had them all amalgamated into one large Bench called the King’s Bench, and sat on it himself.

Edward I, who had already (in his Saladin days) piously decimated several thousand Turks at Nazareth, now felt so strong that he decided to Hammer the Scots, who accordingly now come right into History.

Chapter XXIIIThe Battle of Bannockburn

The Scots were now under the leadership of the Bruce (not to be confused with the Wallace), who [...] armed himself with an enormous spider and marched against the English, determined if possible to win back the Great Scone by beating the English three times running.



Chapter XXIVThe Battle of Cresy

This decisive battle of the world was fought during a total eclipçe of the sun and naturally ended in a complete victory for the All-Black Prince, who very romantically “won his Spurs”1 by slaughtering one-third of the French nobility.

1 His father the King had betted him a pair of hotspurs that he could not do this.

Royal Tact

Edward III had very good manners. One day at a royal dance he noticed some men-about-court mocking a lady whose garter had come off, whereupon to put her at her ease he stopped the dance and made the memorable epitaph: “Honi soie qui mal y pense” (“Honey, your silk stocking’s hanging down”) and having replaced the garter with a romantic gesture gave the ill-mannered courtiers the Order of the Bath. (This was an extreme form of torture in the Middle Ages.)




Chapter XXVRichard II. An Unbalanced King Richard II [...] got off the throne again in despair, exclaiming gloomily: “For God’s sake let me sit on the ground and tell bad stories about cabbages and things.” Whereupon his cousin Lancaster (spelt Bolingbroke) quickly mounted the throne and said he was Henry IV, Part I.


Chapter XXVIIIJoan of Ark

During this reign the Hundred Years War was brought to an end by Joan of Ark, a French descendant of Noah who after hearing Angel voices singing Do Ré Mi became inspired, thus unfairly defeating the English in several battles. Indeed, she might even have made France top nation if the Church had not decided that she would make an exceptionally memorable martyr.

Chapter XXIXCause of the Tudors During the Wars of the Roses the Kings became less and less memorable (sometimes even getting in the wrong order) until at last one of them was nothing but some little princes smothered in the Tower, and another, finding that his name was Clarence, had himself drowned in a spot of Malmsey wine; while the last of all even attempted to give his Kingdom to a horse. It was therefore decided, since the Stuarts were not ready yet, to have some Welsh Kings called Tudors (on account of their descent from Owen Glendower) who, it was hoped, would be more memorable.
Test Paper III

Up to the End of Henry VII
  1. “The end of the closing of the 2nd stage of the Treaty of Bretigny marks the opening of a new phase in the Ist stage of the termination of the Hundred Years War.” (Confute.)
  2. “Know ye not Agincourt?” (Confess.)
  3. “Uneasy lies the head that wears a Throne”.
    1. Suggest remedies, or
    2. Imitate the action of a Tiger.

text checked (see note) Apr 2006

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