If, like me, you often feel an uncontrollable urge to make sense of random historical facts, it helps to give them some context. One of the best and most obvious methods, I find, is association with a particular monarch’s reign. In my case that usually means English/British monarchs. If you’re of a certain age you may well have been taught a handy little ditty at school to help with your ‘kings and queens’, a monarch mnemonic so to speak. This is how I remember it. From the first Norman king (rhyme is in bold italics):
Kings & Queens of England & Britain (mnemonic)
“Willie (I ‘The Conqueror’), Willie (II), Harry (Henry II), Ste(phen),
Harry (Henry II), Dick (Richard I), John, and Harry Three (Henry III).
One, Two, Three Neds (Edwards I, II & III), Richard Two (Richard II),
Harrys Four, Five and Six (Henry IV, V & VI). Then Who?
Edward (IV), Edward (V), Dick the Bad (Richard III),
Harrys Twain (Henry VII & VIII) and Ned the Lad (Edward VI).
Mary, Bessy (Elizabeth), James the Vain (James I/VI of Scotland),
Charlie, Charlie (II), James Again (James II).
William (III) and Mary (II), Anne – Gloria!
Four Georges, William (IV) and Victoria.
Edward VII next, and then
George V in 1910.
Edward VIII soon abdicated.
George the VI was coronated.
Finally there’s Elizabeth (II),
Who’ll be our Queen until her death”.
Introducing the Bishops of Durham
All well and good but sometimes I need a bit more. Being a Durham lad, it’s handy to extend the context to the tenure of the many Bishops of Durham. Hopefully, this isn’t as uptight as it sounds. Until 1836 Durham was a County Palatine where, at its height, the Prince Bishop had the powers of a sovereign. It was a status that persisted in only Durham and Lancaster and was particularly meaningful during the warring middle ages. Bishops then were as handy with a sword as a sermon, and many were distinctly less than holy. It couldn’t last though – Henry VIII’s reformation and Oliver Cromwell’s puritan interregnum were both instrumental in the decline. The palatinate was finally abolished on the death of bishop of Durham, William van Mildert in 1836.
Anyway, that means a lot of names, so to help figure it out I created what I fondly call a Monarchs & Durham Bishops Ready Reckoner. The 2-page chart lists English/British monarchs, bishops of Durham and the priors and deans who were, respectively, the heads of the monastery and cathedral at Durham. For example, the image at the top of the page shows Queen Anne (1702-14), Nathanial Crewe (1674-1721), the longest serving Bishop of Durham and Thomas Comber, one the four deans that served under him. The chart has been a great help to me over the years so I thought I’d make it available on the Durham Cow. I hope that if you have an interest in Durham or the history of Northern England, you might find it helpful too. You can download both pages free from the shop.