History Weekends 2018: 5 minutes with Catherine Nall

In October 1399, Henry Bolingbroke was crowned Henry IV, king of England, following the deposition of his cousin, Richard II. At our York and Winchester History Weekends this autumn, Catherine Nall will explore the ways in which these extraordinary events were explained by contemporaries and reveals the weight of expectation placed on the new king…

Catherine Nall.

We caught up with historian Catherine Nall to find out what we can expect from her talk, “A Manifest Miracle of God”: Henry IV and the Deposition of Richard II, at our History Weekends in York and Winchester this autumn…

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Q: What can audiences look forward to in your talk at our History Weekends in York and Winchester?

A: They can look forward to learning more about the extraordinary set of challenges Henry IV (c1366–1413) faced as king. Part of these challenges were due to his being a usurper, but others were due to the religious climate of the period, England’s relations with France, and his own ill health.

Q: Why are you so interested in this period of history?

A: I was extremely fortunate to be able to study medieval history as an A-Level student at college. My love for the period has grown from there. The later medieval period witnessed such upheaval: from the mass mortality of the Black Death through to the loss of the lands held in France and the Wars of the Roses. I have always been interested in trying to understand how people attempted to come to terms with these events.

Ludlow Castle was, according to one medieval source, near the scene of the opening clash of the Wars of the Roses. (LatitudeStock - David Williams/Getty Images)

Q: Tell us something that might surprise or shock us about this area of history…

A: Women read! What’s more, they read quite a range of material: from religious or devotional works through to romances and military manuals.

Q: What is your favourite ‘little-known fact’ from history?

A: I still find it amazing that arguments were being made in support of women preaching as early as 1393.

Q: Which three historical figures would you invite to a dinner party and why? 

A: My choices would probably make quite an odd dinner experience!

I would love to have dinner with Sir John Fastolf (c1378–1459). He was a famous veteran of the Hundred Years’ War and I bet he’d have some fantastic stories to tell.

I’d also invite Margery Kempe (c1373–c1440). She was an extraordinary woman who bore 14 children, had visions of Christ, and travelled on pilgrimage to Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. She was eventually accused of heresy, and took on several of the leading ecclesiastical authorities of her time.

Finally, moving forward several hundred years, I’d love to meet the Scottish naturalist John Muir (1838–1914), who was instrumental in preserving some of America’s wild places, including Yosemite.

Q: If you had to live in any historical time period, which would you choose and why?

A: I think that the 12th-century court of French princess Marie de Champagne (c1145–1198) would be amazing – she was a patron of French poet Chrétien de Troyes (d1191), who pretty much invented the genre of Arthurian romance, and she was involved in the development of courtly love, one of the most influential medieval traditions. I think it would be a really interesting environment to live in.

Q: Which history book(s) would you recommend (excluding your own)?

A: The books that really got me interested in the period, which still have tremendous value, are MH Keen’s England in the Later Middle Ages and Chivalry (2003), and Christopher Allmand’s The Hundred Years War: England and France at War c1300–c1450 (2008). These two historians share an interest in what literature can tell us about the period and the people who lived in it, which is something that is very important to me as both a literary scholar and historian.

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Catherine Nall will be speaking about Henry IV at our Winchester History Weekend on Sunday 7 October and at our York History Weekend on Sunday 21 October. To find out more about her talk and to book tickets, click here.