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Inventing History : forgery: a great British tradition (British History)
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Hatty
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One can see why historians might have misgivings. Information about D'Ewes is patchy, at times contradictory, most if not all presumably culled from his diaries/ Journals /Autobiography. It seems the young D'Ewes was an enthusiastic pupil and had good Latin as well as, according to him, French and Greek, but his life as a scholar was cut short, at any rate he ended up sans degree.

On 21 May 1618 he entered as a fellow commoner at St. John's College, Cambridge, under the tutorship of Richard Holdsworth, one of the fellows, who was subsequently professor of theology at Gresham College.... For himself he was a hard student and a diligent attendant at lectures and the ordinary university exercises. In September 1620 his father, who appears to have been a very difficult person to get on with – passionate, obstinate, and avaricious – ordered him to remove from Cambridge and enter at the Middle Temple.

His career as a lawyer was truncated too though whether he was ever at Middle Temple is unknown

After this he removed to the Temple, though no record of his admission at the inn has been found.

Wiki explains he had ample financial means and didn't need to continue at the bar but it may be the real day job took up most of his time

He tells us that it was on 4 Sept. 1623 that he first began 'studying records at the Tower of London,' and from that day till his death he never ceased to be an enthusiastic student of our ancient muniments and a constant copyist and analyser of such manuscripts as would throw any light upon English history.

It is no surprise to hear around this time his chum Robert Cotton introduced him to John Seldon, scholar of English law and a polymath, "the chief of learned men reputed in this land" Milton is said to have said.

Soon after the start of the Civil War, D'Ewes took the covenant to parliament but, perhaps tellingly, was not considered 'a safe man' by the parliamentarians.
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Hatty
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The journals of Simonds d'Ewes were first published by his nephew, Paul Bowes, in 1682, more than thirty years after his death. Bowes seemed to follow a similar career trajectory to his uncle. He was, according to Wiki, 'admitted as a pensioner' to St John's College, Cambridge, the college that d'Ewes had gone to and he, in his turn, left without a degree. Again like d'Ewes, he entered the Middle Temple and was called to the bar but had the time to edit and publish the Journals.

In addition to his professional acquirements, he possessed a taste for history and antiquities, and he edited the manuscript work of his celebrated uncle, Sir Simonds D'Ewes, entitled 'The Journals of all the Parliaments during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, both of the House of Lords and House of Commons,' folio, London, 1682


Sir Simonds d'Ewes had left nothing in writing save for a few speeches of 'no great merit' so the revelation of his literary talent may have seemed a minor miracle. There were two further editions of the Journals in 1693 and 1708 and in 1699 Bowes was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.

But there's more to the D'Ewes legacy than a diary or diaries and it involves Humfrey Wanley, librarian to the Harley family and a cataloguer/collector of manuscripts, as well as Franciscus Junius (the Younger)

Fifty-five years after D'Ewes's death all his collections were sold by his grandson to the Earl of Oxford, then Sir Robert Harley. There is a story that Harley advised Queen Anne to purchase them, and that on her refusal Harley secured them for himself at the cost of 6,000l. (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 181). The sum named must be very much exaggerated. Certainly the library was offered to Wanley, Harley's agent in the matter, for 500l., but how much was included in this agreement does not appear.

A list of D'Ewes's manuscripts, apparently drawn up by himself, has come down to us (Harl. MS. 775), and a brief but sufficient analysis of those now in the British Museum may be found in the Harleian catalogue. The collection is very miscellaneous, embracing even such trifles as his school exercises, a large number of letters to his sisters and family, and a great deal else that is really worthless. On the other hand, the voluminous transcripts from cartularies, monastic registers, early wills and records, and from public and private muniments which he ransacked with extraordinary diligence, constitute a very valuable apparatus for the history of English antiquities and law.

Among other of his projects was the compilation of an Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. This work, which he undertook in conjunction with Francis Junius, has never been printed, though it is among the Harleian MSS. and seems to have been made ready for the press.

It turns out the D'Ewes diaries were not quite as comprehensive as the grandiose title of the Journals indicated, but historians helped fill out the gap years

D'Ewes's 'Diaries,' now in the British Museum, written some in Latin and some in cipher, extend from January 1621 to April 1624, and from January 1643 to March 1647. From an earlier diary, preserved at Colchester (Baker, Hist. of St. John's, by Professor Mayor, p. 615, 1. 35), Mr. Marsden in 1811 compiled a work which he calls 'College Life at the Time of James I,' and from the original manuscript in the Harleian collection (No. 646) Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps published in 1845 'The Autobiography and Correspondence of Sir Simonds D'Ewes during the Reign of James I and Charles I.'

According to an admission apparently written by d'Ewes himself, some other unnamed person had written the journal which he just happened to 'come upon'

In 1625 he came upon ' an elaborate journal I had borrowed of the parliament held in the thirty-fifth year of Queen Elizabeth,' of which he seems to have made an analysis, and thus laid the foundation of his great work on the parliamentary history of the queen's reign.
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Mick Harper
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This is a real discovery. My provisional assessment is that he never existed but is a vehicle for other people's chicanery. There might be a real Simons d'Ewes, an obscure backbencher by the sound of it, but not this Simon d'Ewes. I will think on't and take up some of your points tomorrow.
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Mick Harper
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Historians studying the seventeenth-century set great store by Sir Simonds d'Ewes,

Red flag #1 When you've never heard of him but historians are setting great store by him, that's why he's there.

a politician, antiquary and prolific diarist

Red flag #2 A mirror-image of both Pepys and Evelyn (who you have heard of).

(1602 - 1650)

Red flag #3 When a diary ends is always of significance. This is is the cusp between Charles I and Cromwell.

His chief scholarly legacy is the collection of his transcriptions

Red flag #4 Why are these dudes forever transcribing things that are already there?

of primary documents that are now lost.

Red flag #5 But forever lost!

He also kept a diary, which gives an insight into the events in Parliament, as well as glimpses of his own character.

Red flag #6 So good of him.

This assessment seems somewhat glib. Leaving aside for now the collection of 'lost documents', D'Ewes reportedly kept not just one but three diaries, in English, Latin and an almost indecipherable cipher respectively.

Red flag #7 I have to admit three diaries is a new one on me but 'almost indecipherable ciphers' definitely aren't.

The best-known are his parliamentary diaries in English, but he also kept a Latin diary between 1644 and 1647, and also an intermittent series of diaries in virtually impenetrable code or cipher. He devised the cipher as a schoolboy, and in the cipher diary he writes his most critical remarks about fellow-politicians.

Red flag #8 See Hatty's comments for the rest of her initial post.
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Mick Harper
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but his life as a scholar was cut short, at any rate he ended up sans degree.

Red flag #9 This is a pattern we have observed with many of our targets. I'm not sure whether they have to be provided with an education but not a Oxbridge record, or drop-outs were forced into a life of literary crime.

On 21 May 1618 he entered as a fellow commoner at St. John's College, Cambridge, under the tutorship of Richard Holdsworth, one of the fellows, who was subsequently professor of theology at Gresham College....

Red flag #10 Gresham College is an institution we have never really come to satisfactory terms with. But it's definitely a wrong 'un.

ordered him to remove from Cambridge and enter at the Middle Temple.
His career as a lawyer was truncated too though whether he was ever at Middle Temple is unknown
After this he removed to the Temple, though no record of his admission at the inn has been found.
Wiki explains he had ample financial means and didn't need to continue at the bar but it may be the real day job took up most of his time

Red flag #11 These people always seem to flit around from one useful place to another, without leaving records of attendance, without equipping themselves for a proper job.

He tells us that it was on 4 Sept. 1623 that he first began 'studying records at the Tower of London,' and from that day till his death he never ceased to be an enthusiastic student of our ancient muniments and a constant copyist and analyser of such manuscripts as would throw any light upon English history.

Red flag #12 I bet he did. It's what every twenty-one year-old is just dying to do.

It is no surprise to hear around this time his chum Robert Cotton introduced him to John Seldon, scholar of English law and a polymath, "the chief of learned men reputed in this land" Milton is said to have said.

Red flag #13 Join the club, why don't you?

Soon after the start of the Civil War, D'Ewes took the covenant to parliament but, perhaps tellingly, was not considered 'a safe man' by the parliamentarians.

Red flag #14 Ya gotta keep ya options open. As Milton is said to have said to have said. Pepys was in prison three times but most of them did a stretch at some time or another.
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Mick Harper
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The journals of Simonds d'Ewes were first published by his nephew, Paul Bowes, in 1682,

Red flag #15 "The nephew". There were a lot of them about. When it was the Pope, it means 'son', when it's a forger it means 'the Elder' and 'the Younger' is not being used for some reason. But anyway it's an uncomplicated way of shifting material out of the family vaults and into somebody else's.
more than thirty years after his death.

Red flag #16 Always long enough so everyone's safely dead, always short enough to be a contemporary record.

Bowes seemed to follow a similar career trajectory to his uncle. He was, according to Wiki, 'admitted as a pensioner' to St John's College, Cambridge, the college that d'Ewes had gone to and he, in his turn, left without a degree. Again like d'Ewes, he entered the Middle Temple and was called to the bar but had the time to edit and publish the Journals.

Red flag #17 But like the Elder and the Younger they are always mirror images. You can never quite tell who is responsible for what.

In addition to his professional acquirements, he possessed a taste for history and antiquities, and he edited the manuscript work of his celebrated uncle, Sir Simonds D'Ewes, entitled 'The Journals of all the Parliaments during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, both of the House of Lords and House of Commons,' folio, London, 1682

Red flag #18 He wasn't celebrated before but he is now!

Sir Simonds d'Ewes had left nothing in writing save for a few speeches of 'no great merit' so the revelation of his literary talent may have seemed a minor miracle. There were two further editions of the Journals in 1693 and 1708

Red flag #19 They always come out at intervals, don't they?

and in 1699 Bowes was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.

Red flag #20 Successor to Gresham College (see above).

Humfrey Wanley, librarian and a a cataloguer/collector of manuscripts
to the Harley family
as well as Franciscus Junius (the Younger)
now in the British Museum
may be found in the Harleian catalogue
voluminous transcripts from cartularies, monastic registers, early wills and records
valuable apparatus for the history of English antiquities and law
compilation of an Anglo-Saxon Dictionary
in conjunction with Francis Junius
has never been printed, though it is among the Harleian MSS
other unnamed person had written the journal which he just happened to 'come upon'

Red flags #21 et seq
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Wile E. Coyote


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I was recently doing a bit of research on the Alfred Jewel, which has been at the Ashmolean for the last three hundred years or so, it struck me as a bit interesting that when the Jewel was found, in 1693, it fell into the hands of the Ashmolean, ie the museum of the university that Alfred had actually founded. The jewel helpfully contains a legend "Alfred me ordered make" or some such, the lettering is in Roman with two characters in "Saxon", so it's a strange hybrid. From the legend and the place of find it is deduced that this object (nobody is sure what it is for) was ordered made by "The Great".

Anyway a strange tidbit turned up when I discovered that Alfred had not actually founded our oldest university. The University of Oxford for hundreds of years had deliberately perpertrated the King Alfred foundation myth for reasons of finance and influence. It started so it is said in 1384 when the University forged a document to protect their income and properties to bolster a court case they were defending.

The sordid details are here https://www.univ.ox.ac.uk/news/king-alfred-univ-part-1/
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Mick Harper
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This is how part of your story is dealt with in The Book

-----------------------

The Dark Ages may have been backward-looking with their coins but they had a keen eye for the future in other branches of high-value manufacturing. Their artisans could even mimic styles that only came into fashion when their products were found in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They did occasionally spoil the overall aesthetics by crudely etching announcements like ‘Alfred had me made’ on them. I bet he didn’t but there were plenty of swains wanting their sweethearts thinking he did. Don’t you believe it, girls, he got his mate to do it. And don’t believe the promises of marriage either, he’s only after one thing. Either way, keep the keepsake. You won’t know it but Alfred’s destined to be our one and only ‘the Great’ so it will be very valuable one day. Don’t flaunt it in the Danelaw though.
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Mick Harper
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One reason why the Oxfordian 'Alfred had me made' theory never had many legs is that it would have made Oxford the oldest university in the world, beating the Italian ones by several centuries. The world of academia would have laughed their tussocks off. Or as the authors of the piece you cited said, when the university started citing Bede (who lived a goodish time before Alfred) as an authority, 'they would be pushing their luck'.

It is interesting how smug these poltroons are. "Ooh, we've discovered a fake. Aren't we clever? And so honest." That won't stop them coming down like a ton of brickbats on us. Attentive scholars would have noted mention of the Archbishop of Armagh, a gentleman (or an office) that pops in and out of the History Of Fake England.
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Mick Harper
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I'm thinking of a slight emendation

And don’t believe the promises of marriage either, he’s only after one thing. Whether you put out or not, put the keepsake somewhere safe. You won't know it but etc etc

But it's a bit American so I probably won't. The book itself is a bit delayed because I've just learned how to do tables and boxes so I'm currently going through the text to see where I can put them. It's currently looking like an accountancy primer so later I'll take most of them out again. Anything to put off the dread day of publication and world ignoral.
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Wile E. Coyote


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As an aside there are a couple of Anglo Saxon rings in the British museum both with inscriptions to members of Alfred's familiy.

http://www.teachinghistory100.org/objects/about_the_object/royal_rings

The older and larger of the gold rings has a cross and a name: ‘Æthelwulf Rex’ – King Æthelwulf in Latin. The other ring is decorated with a lamb with a halo and the letters A and D which stand for ‘Agnus Dei’ – the Lamb of God, a symbolic reference to Christ. Engraved inside the ring are the words ‘Æthelswith Regina’ – Queen Æthelswith in Latin.


It is quite remarkable how, given the rarity of Anglo Saxon finds, that we are able to see three objects that our "Great" king was probably personally familiar with. That of his father, his sister, his own.
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Wile E. Coyote


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The cult of King Alfred of Wessex is that he was driven into exile by Viking invaders and sought shelter on the Isle of Athelney. After months of leading a resistance effort, he recruited an army and defeated the Danes at the Battle of Edington, (no agreed battlefield site) he is thereby commonly seen as saviour from the Scandinavian heathens. His cult was in full swing by the 1700s. The Jewel was donated to the university in 1718. The first mention 1698. The findspot is believed to be in Somerset so dovetails with the history or .....myth.
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Hatty
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Wile E. Coyote wrote:
Anyway a strange tidbit turned up when I discovered that Alfred had not actually founded our oldest university. The University of Oxford for hundreds of years had deliberately perpertrated the King Alfred foundation myth for reasons of finance and influence. It started so it is said in 1384 when the University forged a document to protect their income and properties to bolster a court case they were defending.

The sordid details are here https://www.univ.ox.ac.uk/news/king-alfred-univ-part-1/

The (false) claim that Alfred founded the University of Oxford was made by the antiquarian William Camden. In 1603 Camden published an edition of Asser's Life of King Alfred in 1603 citing Asser as the source of the story of Oxford's foundation.

A short passage making this claim was interpolated by William Camden into his 1603 edition of Asser's Life. Doubts have also been raised periodically about whether the entire Life is a forgery, written by a slightly later writer, but it is now almost universally accepted as genuine.


His cult was in full swing by the 1700s. The Jewel was donated to the university in 1718. The first mention 1698

The British Library has a copy of Alfred's will (Stowe MS 944). The provenance of the manuscript is c. 1700 but could be 1770 according to the BL's somewhat complicated ownership records giving the owner's name as Thomas Astle, antiquary and palaeographer. Astle is a usual benefactor as he was in possession of "the most remarkable private collection of manuscripts in the country"

...inscribed with a note by Astle 'In the year 1710. This M. S. was in the possession of Walter Clavel Esqr. It was afterwards the property of the Revd. M'r. North from whom it came to his Executor the Revd. Doctor Lort who presented it to me in the year 1770

The British Museum acquired the Stowe manuscript in 1883 along with 1,084 other manuscripts thanks to its then Director, Sir Augustus Franks, aka 'the nation'

The famous collection of manuscripts was left by will to the Marquis of Buckingham, in token of the testator's regard for the Grenville family, upon payment of the nominal sum of 500l. Had the offer been declined, the British Museum was to enjoy the right of purchase at the same price. The offer was, however, accepted by the marquis, who caused a beautiful gothic room to be erected by Mr. (afterwards Sir) John Soane for their reception at Stowe, where they remained until they were transferred, with O'Conor's Irish codices and other manuscripts, to the sale rooms of Messrs. Sotheby in 1849. But the sale did not take place, as the entire collection was privately purchased by the late Earl of Ashburnham for 8,000l.

In the autumn of 1879 the present holder of the title offered his late father's library and collection of manuscripts, the latter consisting of four distinct collections, known as the Stowe, the Barrois, the Libri and Appendix, to the British Museum for 160,000l. After a prolonged negotiation the nation became in 1883 the possessors of the Stowe division at the price of 45,000l.; the most valuable and interesting of the codices being those which had once belonged to Astle, and which are now at the British Museum.

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Wile E. Coyote


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The first published notice is in a article in a treatise "Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London", vol. xx, No. 247, page 441:— in 1698

The jewel is described as in possession of Col. P. of Fairfield.

a curious piece of Antiquity, lately found near Ashelney in Somersetshire; the Place where King Alfred built, as Milton affirms, a Fortress: But according to William of Malmsbury, a Monastery; in Memory (as some have thought) of his Deliverance, obscure Retreat to that Place, and Concealment in it, from the Danes.


This, perhaps, was an Amulet of King Alfred’s.


It's roughly 800 years after Alfred's death, thought to be October 26 899 AD. The Alfred cult was just about to take off (?). The find spot is later described as ploughed, but this notice gives it a more romantic provenance, it was like the King concealed at the fortress monastry.
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Mick Harper
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I think you must have cribbing from my book, Hatty. Have you ever read it? I don't recall getting a cheque from you. The word-by-word run-throughs don't count. But anyway the following names from your last post appear in the rogues gallery

King Alfred
Oxford University
William Camden
Bishop Asser
Stowe
Augustus Franks
Grenville family
British Museum
Sir John Soane
Sotheby's
Earl of Ashburnham
Jean-Baptiste Barrois
Guglielmo Libri

It's a record!
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