Not Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

24 Apr 2022
by Fight Club Team

On this day the 24th of April 1184 BC, (or thereabouts, it's a little unclear) some devious Greeks got into the city of Troy in perhaps the boldest war trick ever attempted. At least, as the legend goes.

We all know the tale of the Trojan Horse - the Siege of Troy was taking too long for the Greeks, so they built a decoy horse, hid some lads inside it, then tricked the Trojans into taking it within the city walls. They opened the gates from within, and the city fell.

That's the story, but as awesome as it is, it may not be true! The Greeks do love to talk themselves up, especially when it comes to warfare, and modern historians speculate that the so called Trojan Horse could have easily been a battering ram or other such conventional siege engine.

The Gift Horse

In those times it was not uncommon to decorate or theme such engines around animals, either to inspire, cause fear, or show worship to a god. It may be the case that oral historians heard the battle recount, then misinterpreted the meaning. (Either intentionally or not)

It is also equally likely that the "horse" could have been a ship, with its prow decorated in such a manner. Disguised with some benign reason, armed soldiers could easily hide within its decks and cargo. (A boat does seem more practical than a giant, decorative wooden horse, but that's just us speculating.)

If there's any lesson to be learned from this, it's that you don't trust the Ancient Greeks! Firstly with wooden "gifts", but especially when it comes to army sizes: my lord did they ever love to make themselves the underdogs!

Once the Emperor, twice the Exile

20 Mar 2022
by Fight Club Team

On this day, 20th of March 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte returned from his island exile and waltzed into Paris unopposed.

He didn't stick around for long though, lasting only 100 Days (Cents Jours) before being booted away to another, different island. Napoleon's rise was quite meteoric, so it only makes sense for his fall to be similar.

Despite being pitted against all his neighbours, Napoleon managed to rebuff his monarchist enemies and even capture land for his Republic. Obviously the sovereigns couldn't have this upstart disrupting the regime! A Coalition of Six Countries finally defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Montmartre and deposed him. He was forced into retirement on the Island of Elba.

Now obviously Napoleon wasn't happy with that, who would be? He lasted just under 10 months on Elba, slipping away on a ship while the Coalition squabbled over the division of land from the war.

He landed on the mainland with some 1000 soldiers, and began to make his way (avoiding royalist Provence) to Paris. French defensive armies were sent to intercept, but ended up only joining his ranks. Napoleon's forced swelled to an army.

From there, he basically just walked into Paris with a warm welcome ceremony. Unbeknownst to Napoleon, this would begin his last 100 days in France.

Clearly this did not sit so well with the Coalition. Another war started almost immediately, and it lasted (as you might have guessed) 100 days. The campaign began and ended with the famous Battle of Waterloo, but that's an article for another day.

Napoleon was shipped of to the Island of Saint Helena, the Monarchy was restored, and order returned to France.

For a little while, at least.

The Ides of March

15 Mar 2022
by Fight Club Team

On this day, Ides/March 44BC, Julius Caesar died. As I'm sure you all know.

It was a turning point in Roman history, resulting in the beginning of the civil war that led to the rise of his heir, Octavian (who was known as Augustus later)

Popularised and dramatised by Shakespeare in his play Julius Caesar, the assassination was a sordid affair. As many as 60 of Caesar's enemies partook in the evisceration, as well as some (ex)friends. Et tu Brute?

It's no coincidence that the assassination took place on the Ides of March, as they were a special date by which a Roman should settle their debts. And boy did the senate have a debt to settle with Caesar.

Not all the conspirators were able to get a thrust in, but 23 wounds were managed, and that (unsurprisingly) was enough to finish poor Jules off.

Unanticipated by the conspirators, however, was the ire Caesar's death would invoke with the middle and lower classes of Rome, with whom Caesar was incredibly revered. They didn't take kindly to their beloved leader being sliced up by some aristocrats.

It seemed that Mark Antony (Julius' friend and advisor) capitalised on this grief induced rage, starting a large fire in Rome at Caesar's funeral and laying the groundwork with Octavian for the five civil wars to come.

So, if you've any debts to settle, you'd better do them right now, for The Ides have come, but they have not yet passed. Or, if you can't resolve them today, for the love of Vesta avoid the Theatre of Pompey, please.

How to make enemies feat. Charles the First

10 Mar 2022
by Fight Club Team

On this day the 10th of March, 1629, the Parliament was dissolved. Again. For the 4th time in four years. By the same guy.

No wonder the Royalists were so hated, they couldn't make up their damn minds!

This same guy, as you might've guessed, was King Charles I of England. But, it was his dad James I who started the kingly tradition of summoning Parliaments for money. Charles I continued this tradition once he succeeded, by immediately thrusting the country into an expensive war with Spain.

Can't imagine Parliament were too happy when he made them dish out to help...

It really all went downhill for England when the Scots came down. Charles I had forced his new prayer book upon them, and they weren't too happy with that.

This happened some 11 years after the last dissolution, and after Charles was forced to call them together to get funding. This was the summoning that broke the Parliament's back, so to speak.

After some Parliamentary arrests, and a few years of rising tensions, the Scots allied with the combined forces of the Parliament.

And we all know how that went for the Royals...

You know what the funny thing is? The Parliament that Charles I raised for his war with the Scots -- it was dissolved by him.

Three weeks later.

Charles, my man. That's not how you make friends.

The Battle of Pavia - Everyone was Invited!

24 Feb 2022
by Fight Club Team

On this day, 24th February 1525, there was, as you might have guessed, a battle at Pavia. It was the decisive victory that spelled the end of the Italian War of 1521, fought between King Francis I of France and the Hapsburg Empire of Charles V and his various supporters.

There was some great national representation by the two sides: there was French Cavalry, Swiss mercenaries, Italian men at arms, Spanish arquebusiers, and even German Landsknechte all battling it out in Visconti Park, just outside the city walls. Everyone really pulled together and pitched in, hey?

King Francis I

The battle itself took place in the early morning, but was over in around only 4 hours. King Francis I, in the middle of the siege of Pavia, was set upon by a Hapsburg relief force. They had set up in the famous "pike and shot" formation of the time, and began their advance.

Seizing the initiative, Francis I led a cavalry charge in an attempt to capture the enemy commander, but was predictably ravaged and rebuffed by the infantry formations. Habsburg infantry then descended upon the cavalry from all angles, systematically despatching the lancers as quickly as possible. The French footmen rushed to defend the knights, but this only allowed the defending party of Pavia to sally out behind them and seal Francis' fate.

The French army was sundered and defeated in detail. Many French nobles were either killed or captured, including King Francis I He was imprisoned for a time, until the 1526 Treaty of Madrid was signed, giving Francis his freedom in exchange for abandoning some land claims and relinquishing the fief of Burgundy to the Habsburgs.

Henry IV - Dirty, rotten, Two Faithed Liar!

05 Feb 2022
by Fight Club Team

On this day, 5th February 1576, King Henry IV of Navarre renounced or abjured his Catholic ties to become a bona fide Huguenots Protestant; forever and always, no takesy-backsies, done and dusted, for sure.

Raised a Protestant by his mother, but baptised a Catholic, one could say he was playing both sides from the start. Both sides of the French Wars of Religion, that he was a part of from a very young age and engaged in for most of his adult life.

His abjuration of Catholicism was a direct result of a Protestant massacre, at his wedding no less. St. Bartholomew's Day massacre took place a few days after the knot was tied, and several thousand protestants who had come for the wedding were killed.

No wonder he turned his back to the Catholics.

But, as you might have guessed, that only lasted a while. A few years later, Henry was named the heir presumptive of France due to lineage. Being a stout Protestant, and leader of the Huguenots, this caused issues with majority Catholic France.

And so begins the War of Three Henrys, but that's a topic for another time. Long story short, Henry essentially won the war, but was halted by the Catholic League and was unable to take Paris.

So what would anyone do faced with this conundrum? Why, simply convert of course! In July 1593 he became a bona fide Roman Catholic; forever and always, no takesy-backsies, done and dusted, for sure.

Understandably this peeved his allies, the Huguenots and Queen Elizabeth I, but it did mean that his claim to the French crown was a bit more legitimate than before. It also ended his excommunication by the Pope, won him favour with the French populace and the Catholic League, and secured his place on the throne.

All it took was a few words muttered under his breath at the Cathedral of Chartres. (And a few battles and killings and such but never mind that)

In the end historians assert, to no one's surprise, that Henry was a stout Calvinist (Protestant), and only changed his formal religion to suit political needs. It's how he was raised, so who can blame him?

It is funny to see how nothing has really changed, has it? Catholics will probably be fighting religious wars until the end of time...

I don't care if he's dead, execute him anyway!

30 Jan 2022
by Samuel Taylor

On this day, the 30th Jan 1661, Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell was executed for regicide... despite having been dead for two years.

Now this isn't to say that he wasn't technically guilty of it, it's just a bit odd to hang, draw and quarter the poorly preserved remains of a 59 year old and his two buddies.

This was at the behest of Charles II, returned from exile and maybe a bit angry about Daddy being deposed and all that. Immediately after gaining power, and with characteristic extravagant flair, he ordered the posthumous execution of Oliver Cromwell, John Bradshaw and Henry Ireton, the conspirators responsible for the death of Charles I.

King Slayer

It was a bit of a ritual really; Cromwell and co. were hung on the anniversary of the execution of Charles I , their remains were spiked at Westminster Hall, (where Charles I was tried) where they were left for 25 years.

You could see that Charles II really didn't like this guy. Maybe for a good reason.

Cut the Head off the Snake and the Body will Wither

21 Jan 2022
by Samuel Taylor

On this day- VIVE LE REVOLUTION! Ahem. Sorry.

On this day, the 21st of January 1793, an important head was removed from its body. King Louis XVI, the last "King" of France (there were others after him, but really they weren't the same) was executed by guillotine to the joy of the masses in France. In a trial 4 days prior, The National Convention, the revolutionary parliament, almost unanimously declared him guilty of high treason and sentenced him to death.

This execution is often regarded as the turning point of European history. In many ways his execution by his subjects marked the decline of absolute monarchy in Europe, and the birth of democracy.

King Louis XVI (Head on)

On a more gruesome note, the details of his execution! Now in those days executions were something of a spectacle, and crowds would clamour to get front row seats. Whether it was a berserk and fervent hunger for blood, or merely a good opportunity to see a celebrity up close, people loved it when royals were offed.

In Louis' case, after the chop went through, some citizens rushed to dip their handkerchiefs in the pooling blood, to keep as a souvenir. I like to imagine those folk were just sentimental royalists. Très sentimental royalists.

Louis' death was a spurring moment for the revolutionaries; more praxis for their theory. It bolstered and emboldened their actions, leading to greater alterations to the political and social structure of France over the coming years. 9 months later, Marie Antionette, Louis' wife and former queen, would be guillotined at the very same spot.

What fun!

Casting the Die and Crossing the River

09 Jan 2022
by Samuel Taylor

On this day, the 10th of January 49BC, a die was cast by none other than Julius Caesar. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Physically, he and his Legio XIII crossed the Rubicon, the river border between Italy and Cisalpine Gaul in a march to straight to Rome.

Understandably, the Roman Senate were just slightly perturbed by this. They had specific laws against this exact action, the imperium law, making it illegal for any Roman army raised outside of Italy entrance within. It had to be disbanded by the general before entrance would be granted.

Julius, being his usual ambitious self, directly transgressed this law, and intentionally began the Roman Civil War. His actions were the result of years long political strife against his rival Pompey, in which neither could agree on non-violent diplomacy.

Despite Caesar possessing only the one legion, and technically being outnumbered about 10 to 1, Italy was not prepared for such sudden incursion. Pompey and the Senate were forced to flee Rome.

Eventually, after 4 or so years, Caesar was victorious and thus proclaimed dictator of Rome. The Roman Civil war was one of the last military actions before the Republic became the Empire.

Now as to whether or not Caesar actually said "alea iacta est" when he crossed over is up for debate. Whether it was in Latin, or Greek, or even said at all, one thing's for sure;

It would have been pretty cool to say.

The Battle of Nancy! (The Town, not the Lady)

05 Jan 2022
by Samuel Taylor

On this day, the 5th of January 1477, the last battle of the Burgundian Wars was fought outside Nancy, France. It pitched the Duke René II of Lorraine (famous for their quiches) against Charles the Bold and his Burgundian State (famous for their burgundy wine).

Now they weren't fighting over whose foodstuffs were better (although they were French so maybe), but rather Burgundy and its counties were resisting the expansion of the Swiss Confederacy and their allies.

Three battles were fought over three years, but finally it ended in 1477 with our titular combat.

Charles was attempting to retake Nancy from René, and was encamped outside the walls in siege. René arrived in the morning of the 5th, his large army bolstered by a Swiss army retinue.

Despite a strong defensive position, and plenty of field guns, Charles was overcome by numbers and harsh wintry conditions. He was surrounded, and his army broke and took to flight.

It's said that a small band of Swiss troops managed to engage Charles and his staff, with a quick strike from a Swiss halberd to Charles' head finishing him off.

Even with the commander dead, the battle remained ongoing, until eventually his army fully broke into retreat. It took 3 days for his body to be identified.

Burgundy became a part of France shortly after. A couple cathedrals were built, and René called it a job well done.