Alnwick Probus Club, February meeting

HOTSPUR HISTORY: The Februrary meeting of the Alnwick Probus Club was treated to a masterclass of local history when Robert Brooks, of the Northumberland Gazette, gave a talk on Harry Hotspur.

Speaking entirely without notes Mr Brooks traced the history of Sir Henry Percy - Harry Hotspur - from his birth in the north of England circa 1364, to his death at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403.

Hotspur was a child of his time, born into nobility in the latter half of the 14th century, he was trained for battle and educated as a scholar from the age of six. He was taught the skills of wrestling and unarmed combat, progressed to learning how to fight with dagger, sword, two-handed sword and pole-axe. Once these skills had been developed he went on to master the same techniques in full armour. At the same time he became literate and numerate, and became fluent in Latin and French to the extent that throughout his adult life he always corresponded in French.

He was taking an active part in battle by the time he was 13 when he was involved in the retaking of Berwick from the Scots. At the age of 13 he was knighted and henceforth his life was spent in action on battlefields and in diplomatic service at the very highest levels. He was regarded as a hothead and nicknamed Hotspur by the Scots because of his reputation of putting his head down and charging into any situation. Actually a detailed study of his actions reveal a man who gave a lot of thought to his position before making his move but once started he would pursue his goal with chivalrous courage.

As well as being a leading figure in battles throughout the Scottish and Welsh borders, Hotspur led English armies in France and ventured as far afield as the Balkans. He also became involved in diplomacy and even went to Cyprus as the English King’s envoy.

Sadly his life came to an end at the age of 37 when he was slain at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. Remarkably there is no surviving portrait of Hotspur, he lives on in legend but leaves no tangible trace of his life.

A lively discussion followed this detailed talk when Mr Brooks demonstrated the depth of his knowledge of this period of history by fielding the many questions with interesting anecdotes and insights into life in the late 14th century, all given off the cuff without reference to notes, a quite remarkable ability.

The next meeting of the Alnwick Probus Club is on March 14, when Phillip Deakin will talk on The Chillingham Wild Cattle. Prospective members are always welcome. Anyone wanting information on the club should contact Bill Bland 01669 620572 or at bland.thropton@tiscali.co.uk