The devil’s monk

He maimed, he murdered, he lied, he double-crossed. Eight centuries after Eustace the Monk died supporting a massive French invasion of England, Sean McGlynn profiles one of medieval Europe's unholiest holy men...

The battle of Dover, 24 August 1217, (image c1880). (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the September 2017 issue of BBC History Magazine.

Eight hundred years ago, one of the most hated men in England met a grisly end. As the battle of Sandwich – fought off the Kent coast on 24 August 1217 between the English and French navies – reached its bloody conclusion, Eustace the Monk was on the deck of his ship, vigorously swinging an oar around him as he tried to fend off his English enemies. A contemporary writer describes how he “knocked down a good number… some had their arms broken, others their head smashed in… another had his collar bone shattered”. But Eustace’s luck was about to run out. Soon he was overwhelmed by his foes – and, after attempting to escape, he was dragged on deck and decapitated.

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