AS a frequent visitor to Alnwick, it was with a mixture of outrage and amusement that I read the letters in the Gazette regarding Harry Hotspur.
Many were pathetic attempts by nameless correspondents to discredit one of Northumberland’s greatest heroes.
It was indeed a “wrong recollection of history” to label Henry Percy as a vandal.
Vandals were a member of the Germanic peoples that overran Gaul, Spain, and northern Africa in the fourth and fifth centuries AD and sacked Rome in 455.
A little too early in history for our Harry, methinks.
In fact, Harry was an extremely well-educated man who could speak fluent French, German and Latin and was “a learned and eloquent” envoy used by the King. He was even worthy of a favourable mention by William Shakespeare in Henry IV Part I.
As regards him being trained from an early age to kill and maim, well he would have made a pretty poor knight otherwise. All knights of the realm were trained in this manner and in fact so skilled was Harry that Henry IV entrusted him with training his own son, the future Henry V – not something which would have happened if Hotspur had been a mindless thug.
One of your commentators wrote: “If you were stood opposite him under his raised sword it would evoke fear and terror.”
No more so than being in a trench bombarded by shells. At least in Hotspur’s day you usually met your enemy face-to-face.
They also wrote: “There are residents of Alnwick whose ancestors could have been killed by Harry Hotspur and his relatives, or left to rot in the castle dungeon.”
Oh please! I think it’s unlikely anyone’s holding a grudge after 600 years and to be honest in this day of celebrity some folk would probably boast that one of their ancestors was laid waste by such a famous figure.
As to whether this statue “reflects the history of violence and political power struggles that formed the castle, the town, ordinary people’s lives or does it give a neat and santised version?” Who cares? To me the statue reflects the true spirit of Northumberland. A proud and fierce region of the British Isles, forged out of centuries of conflict with honour, violence, loyalty and humour.
Harry Hotspur was loved by his people, as well as his peers, greatly respected by his enemies and eventually betrayed by the king he so loyally served.
He lived in violent times and acted appropriately to the circumstances of the day and should not be vilified for it.
It is with great interest that I read recently in the Herald, that Morpeth saluted one of Britain’s greatest naval heroes, Lord Collingwood, who led the fleet to victory at Trafalgar. It would appear some parts of Northumberland aren’t as backwards in coming forward about honouring their heroes.