Thursday, August 02, 2012



Had I but a grain of historical scholarship in my bones I would have evolved the theme of the second most used book on our shelves (the first is the dictionary).
            Whenever there is reference to a king or queen in England’s past history, this book, “Kings and Queens”, is referred to.
            From William the Conqueror onwards, each monarch is given a short monograph.
            The book’s language is simple and direct. So when a Shakespeare play about our royal past appears on screen or stage, this splendid volume is invaluable.
            It is not possible for the ordinary punter to verify the accuracy of the text. But then Shakespeare turned history into entertainment. So there may be some discrepancies – as there is in much of historical writing.
            The book is a paperback, written by Elizabeth Gundrey in 1977. And when telling us about the reign of Henry IV and his persecution of the Lollards and how many were eliminated and burned alive, we wanted to know more about these followers of Wyclif who operated under a name derived from the Dutch language.
            But there was a slight snag. The text recommended on one page that we turn to page 36 to discover more about these people.
            It was then that we discovered that the recommended page (36) might well have told us more had the publishers not omitted to number the pages.
            Perseverance paid off, and on an earlier unnumbered page we learned that in Edward III’s reign, these followers of Wyclif (“in a way the first Protestant”) were critics of the corruption and pride spreading through the Catholic Church. They preached sermons against the power of the Pope and urged the people to return to more spiritual ways with less striving for wealth.
            No wonder they were persecuted and burned alive by those who were then, in the late 1300s to early 1400s, enjoying the fruits of power and money.
            This paperback has been a great and simple source of information. And from it we have now learned a little about the Lollards.
            It was a bit of a job to glean this information from the book’s unnumbered pages – and more difficult, I imagine, for the readers upon publication, as its recommended readership age group was 9 – 14.