Miss Tickletoby’s Lectures on English History, Vol. V

Here is Vol. IV Part II of William Thackeray’s Miss Tickletoby’s Lectures on English History, a satirical series published in Punch magazine in 1842. Here, the fictional amateur historian Miss Tickletoby gives a unique, unintentionally hilarious and staunchly monarchist take on the years following the Norman Conquest of 1066, starring “Prince Shortlegs”…
Harold being dead, His Majesty King William – of whom, as he now became our legitimate sovereign, it behoves every loyal heart to speak with respect – took possession of England, and, as is natural, gave all the good places at his disposal to his party. He turned out all the English noblemen from their castles, and put his Norman soldiers and knights into them. He and his people had it all their own way; and though the English frequently rebelled, yet the King managed to quell as such disturbances, and reigned over us for one-and-twenty years. He was a gallant soldier, truly – stern, wise, and prudent, as far as his own interests were concerned, and looked up to by all other Majesties as an illustrious monarch.
But great as he was in public, he was rather uncomfortable in his family, on account of a set of unruly sons whom he had – for their Royal Highnesses were always quarrelling together. It is related that one day, being at tea with her Majesty the Queen and the young Princes, at one of his castles in Normandy (for he used this country to rob it chiefly, and not to live in it), a quarrel ensued, which was certainly very disgraceful. Fancy, my darlings, three young Princes sitting at tea with their papa and mamma, and being so rude as to begin throwing water at one another! The two younger, H.R.H. Prince William and H.R.H. Prince Henry, actually flung the slop-basin, or some such thing, into the face of H.R.H. Prince Robert, the King’s eldest son.
His Royal Highness was in a furious rage, although his brothers declared that they were only in play; but he swore that they had insulted him, and that his papa and mamma favoured them and not him, and drawing his sword, vowed that he would have their lives. His Majesty with some difficulty got the young Princes out of the way; but nothing would appease Robert, who left the castle vowing vengeance.This passionate and self-willed young man was calling Courthose, which means in French short inexpressibles, and he was said to have worn shorts because his limbs were of that kind. Prince Shorts fled to a castle belonging to the King of France, who was quite jealous of Duke Robert, and was anxious to set his family be the ears; and the young Prince began forthwith robbing his father’s dominions, on which that monarch marched with an army to besiege him in his castle.
Here an incident befell which, while it shows that Prince Robert (for all the shortness of his legs) had a kind and brave heart, will at the same time point out to my beloved pupils the dangers – the awful dangers – of disobedience. Prince Robert and his knights sallied out one day against the besiegers, and engaged the horsemen of their party. Seeing a warrior on the other side doing a great deal of execution, Prince Robert galloped at him sword in hand, and engaged him. Their visors were down, and they banged away at each other, like – like good-uns [Hear, hear]. At last Prince Robert hit the other such a blow that he felled him from his horse, and the big man tumbling off cried, “Oh, murder!” or “Oh, I’m done for!” or something of the sort. Fancy the consternation of Prince Robert when he recognized the voice of his own father!
He flung himself off his saddle as quick as his little legs would let him, ran to his father, knelt down before him, besought him to forgive him, and begged him to take his horse and ride home. The King took the horse, but I’m sorry to say he only abused his son, and rode home as sulkily as possible. However, he soon came to be in a good humour, acknowledged that his son Prince Shortlegs was an honest fellow, and forgave him; and they fought some battles together, not against each other, but riding bravely side by side.
So, having prospered in all his undertakings, and being a great Prince and going to wage war against the French King, who had offended him, the famous King William I of England, having grown very fat in his old age, received a hurt while riding, which made him put a stop to his projects of massacring the Frenchmen, for he felt that his hour of death had come. As usual, after a life of violence, blood, and rapine, he began to repent on his death-bed, uttered some religious sentences which the chroniclers have recorded, and gave a great quantity of money which had been robbed from the people to the convents and priests.
The moment the breath was out of the great King’s body, all the courtiers ran off to their castles expecting a war. All the abbots went to their abbeys, where they shut themselves up. All the shopkeepers closed their stalls, looking out for riot and plunder; and the King’s body being left quite alone, the servants pillaged the house where he lay, leaving the corpse almost naked on the bed. And this was the way they served the greatest man in Christendom!
[Much sensation, in the midst of which the Lecturer retired].


Miss Tickletoby’s Lectures on English History, Vol. IV

Here today for your enjoyment, I present Vol. IV Part I of William Thackeray’s Miss Tickletoby’s Lectures on English History  (satires published in Punch magazine in 1842), in which the (fictional) amateur  historian Miss Tickletoby gives a unique take on the events of what is perhaps the most famous year in English history – 1066.


King Canute, whose adventures at the watering place my young friend Mr. Simcoe described last week in such exquisite verse (and I am afraid that the doings at watering-places are not often so moral), died soon after, having repented greatly of his sins. It must have been Gravesend, I think, where the King grew so thoughtful.
[Here Miss T. was rather disappointed that nobody laughed at her pun; the fact is, that MISS BUDGE, the usher, had been ordered to do so, but, as usual, missed the point]
Before he died, he made a queer sort of reparation for all the sins, robberies, and murders that he committed: he put his crown on the head of the statue of a saint in Canterbury, and endowed no end of monasteries. And a great satisfaction it must have been to the relatives of the murdered people, to see the King’s crown on the saint’s head; and a great consolation to those who had been robbed, to find the King paid over all their money to the monks.
Some descendants of his succeeded him, about whom there is nothing particular to say, nor about King Edward the Confessor, of the Saxon race, who succeeded to the throne when the Danish family failed, and who was canonized by a Pope two hundred years after his death – his Holiness only knows why.
‘Spooney’, my dears, is a strong term, and one which, by a sensitive female, ought to be employed only occasionally; but SPOONEY, I emphatically repeat [immense sensation], is the only word to characterise this last of the regular Saxon kings. He spent his time at church, and let his kingdom go to rack and ruin. He had a pretty wife, whom he never had the spirit to go near; and he died, leaving his kingdom to be taken by anyone who could get it.

A strong gallant young fellow, Harold by name, stepped forward, and put the crown on his head, and vowed to wear it like a man. Harold was the son of Earl Godwin that we spoke of in the last lecture, a great resolute fellow, who had been fighting King Edward’s enemies while the King was singing psalms and praying the saints to get rid of them, and turned out with his sword in his hand and a coat of mail on his body, whilst the silly King stayed at home in a hair-shirt, scourging and mortifying his useless old body.
Harold then took the crown (though, to be sure, he had no right to it, for there was a nephew of the King, who ought to have been first served); but he was not allowed to keep undisturbed possession of it for very long, for the fact is, somebody else wanted it. You all know who this was – no other than William, Duke of Normandy, a great and gallant prince (though I must say his mother was no better than she should be*), who had long had a wish to possess the noble realm of England, as soon as the silly old Confessor was no more. Indeed, when Harold was abroad, William had told him as much, making him swear to help in the undertaking. Harold swore, as how could he help it? – for William told him he would have his head off if he didn’t – and then broke his oath on the first opportunity.

*Miss Tickletoby’s rancour against Edward’s treatment of his wife, and her sneer at the Conqueror’s mother, are characteristic of her amiable sex.
Some nine months, then, after Harold had assumed the crown, and just as he had come from killing one of his brothers (they were pretty quarrelsome families, my dears, in those days), who had come to England on a robbing excursion, Harold was informed that the Duke of Normandy had landed with a numerous army of horse, foot, and marines, and proposed, as usual, to stay. Down he went as fast as the coach could carry him (for the Kentish railroad was not then open), and found Duke William at Hastings, where both parties prepared for a fight.
You, my darlings, know the upshot of the battle very well; and though I’m a delicate and sensitive female, and though the Battle of Hastings occurred – let me see; take 1066 from 1842 – exactly seven hundred and seventy-six years ago, yet I can’t help feeling angry to think that those beggarly, murderous Frenchmen should have beaten our honest English as they did. [Cries of “Never mind; we’ve given it ’em since”]. Yes, my dears, I like that spirit; we have given it ’em since, as the Duke of Wellington at Badajos, and my late lamented br-r-other, Ensign Samuel T-t-tickletoby, at B-b-bunhill Row, can testify.

[The Lecturer’s voice was here choked with emotion, owing to the early death of the latter lamented hero].

But don’t let us be too eager for military glory, my friends. Look! We are angry because the French beat us eight hundred years ago! And do you suppose they are not angry because we beat them some five-and-twenty years back? Alas! and alas! this is always the way with that fighting; you can’t satisfy both parties with it, and I do heartily hope that one day there’ll be no such thing as a soldier left in all Europe. [A voice, “And no police neither”].

Miss Tickletoby’s Lectures on English History, Vol. III

Here today for your enjoyment, I present the third of William Thackeray’s Miss Tickletoby’s Lectures on English History (satires published in Punch magazine in 1842), in which the (fictional) amateur historian Miss Tickletoby elaborates on that little-known period in English history – the Danish Conquest.

Could this be the learned Miss Tickletoby herself?


In the olden time our glorious country of England, my dears, must have been a pleasant place; for see what numbers of people have taken a fancy to it! First came the Romans, as we have seen, then the Saxons; and when they were comfortably established here, the Danes, under their Sea-Kings, came gallantly over the main, and were not a whit less charmed with the island than the Saxons and Romans had been. Amongst these distinguished foreigners may be mentioned the Sea-King Swayn [Sweyn Forkbeard], who came to England in the year nine hundred and something, landing at Margate, with which he was so pleased as to determine to stop there altogether – being, as he said, so much attached to this country that nothing would induce him to go back to his own. Wasn’t it a compliment to us? There is a great deal of this gallantry in the people of the North; and you may have observed, even in our own days, that some of them, ‘specially Scotchmen, when once landed here, are mighty unwilling to go home again. Well, King Swayn’s stay became preposterously long; and his people consumed such a power of drink and victuals, that at length our late beloved monarch, King Ethelred the Second, was induced to send to him.

A-reading of the newspaper, in meditation lost,
A bard of those days has recorded, with considerable minuteness, the particulars of Swayn’s arrival; and as his work has not been noticed by Turner, Hallam, Hume, or any other English historian, it may be quoted with advantage here. Snoro the Bard (so called from the exciting effect which his poem produced on his audience) thus picturesquely introduces us to the two kings*:

Sat Aethelred of England, and took his tea and toast;
Sat Aethelred of England, and read the Morning Post.
Among the new arrivals the Journal did contain,
At Margate, on the twentieth, His Majesty King Swayn
Of Denmark, with a retinue of horsemen and of Dane!
Loud laughed King Aethelred, and laid the paper down:
“Margate is a proper place for a Danish clown”.
“Take care”, said the Chancellor, “he doesn’t come to town”.
“Let him come”, said the King (in his mouth buttered toast popping),
“At Wapping or at Redriff this boatswain will be stopping”.
“Take care”, says Chancellor Wigfrid, “he don’t give you a wapping”.
“I’m certain”, says wise Wigfrid, “the Sea-King means us evilly. –
Herald, go to Margate and speak unto him civilly;
And if he’s not at Margate, why then try Ramsgate and Tivoli”.
Herald, in obedience to his master dear,
Goes by steam to Margate, landing at the Pier;
Says he, “King Swayn of Denmark I think is lodging here?”

*The poems are translated, word for word, from the Anglo-Saxon, by the accomplished Adolphus Simcoe, author of Perdition, The Ghoul, editor of the Lady’s Lute, etc.

The ballad, which is important to the archaeologian as showing how many of the usages of the present day prevailed nine hundred years back (thus fondly do Englishmen adhere to their customs), and which shows that some of the jokes called puns at present were in existence at this early period of time, goes on to describe, with a minuteness that amounts almost to tediousness, the interview between Swayn and the herald. It is angry, for the latter conveys to the Danish monarch the strongest exhortations, on the part of King Ethelred, to quit the kingdom.


Falling into a fury, Swayn then abuses the King of England in the most contumelious terms; says that he will make his back into a football, and employ his nose for a bell-rope; but finally recollecting himself, dismisses the herald with a present of five-eighths of an Ethelred groat – twopence-halfpenny (a handsome largesse, considering the value of money in those days) – bidding him at the same time order what he liked to drink at the hotel where he (king Swayn) resided. “Well”, says the chronicler pathetically – “well might he order what he thought proper. King Swayn of Denmark never paid a copper”. A frightful picture of the insolence and rapacity of the invader and his crew!

A battle, as is natural, ensues; the invader is victorious. At Swayn’s death, Snoro is lost in grief, being, however, consoled in the next stanza by the succession of his son Canute to the throne. After following King Canute through his battles – in one of which the celebrated GODWIN (who, I believe, afterwards married Mary Wollstonecraft) showed the valour of Englishmen – after going through a list of murders, treasons, usurpations, which the great monarch committed, the bard comes to that famous passage in his history which all little boys know; when King Canute tried to order the sea to retreat. I have the pleasure to show a copy of an Anglo-Saxon drawing which is to be found in the manuscript, and which never has been seen until the present day.
[This drawing was handed round to the company by Miss Tickletoby and excited an immense sensation, which having subsided, the lecturer proceeded to read from the same MS., Claud. XXVII. XXVIII., “The Song of King Canute”, at which point – without wishing to disparage the abilities of the great bard Snoro – the editor feels it is right to stop].