Through the window of Old English poetry, we can begin to glimpse the richness of the great word-hoard of heroic verse which once existed in early England.  We shall attempt to chart the historical and geographical scope of this lost world of legend, which can help to illuminate the pre-history of the English-speaking peoples, such as Offa of Old Anglia, the glorious Goths, and Wéland (Wayland) the Wonder-Smith, Lord of Elves.

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King Henry VIII was a great jouster and skilled swordsman, and he was fond of showing off his knightly prowess. But he only ever fought one field battle, ‘The Battle of the Spurs’, against the French in 1513. This to an Anglo-French peace-treaty, which was followed, in 1520, by an attempt to outlaw all war between Christian kingdoms. At the Field of Cloth of Gold, in the Pas de Calais, Henry met the French King Francis I in a lavish courtly spectacle. The meeting took the form of an enormous tournament, with jousts and other supposedly friendly combats taking place over more than two weeks. Despite being one of the most famous events in Tudor history, the nature of the martial contests themselves has remained largely mysterious. In this study-day we shall delve into this oft-misunderstood subject, to uncover both the splendour and the sinister undertones of this extraordinary moment of history.

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During the day we will look at the forms and style of music from the Elizabethan period through a variety of genres – ranging from the music of the streets and theatre to the music of the church, court and stately homes. In doing so we shall also focus on the music played in the homes of the cultured families of the Petres in Ingatestone, the Pastons of Norfolk and the Kytsons at Hengrave.  Composers and their works will be illustrated by a lecture recital of Elizabethan keyboard music.

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It is often said that Æthelstan (ruled 925-939), grandson of Ælfred the Great, was the first king of England.  Yet it seems likely that Rædwald of East Anglia (died c.625) ruled over a similarly wide area, for after his victory at the Battle of the River Idle in 617, he was the first overlord of both southern and northern Britain.  His triumph by the River Idle also appears to have been the first time that a baptised English king gained victory on the field of battle.  Rædwald may thus have been regarded as a very great king indeed, all of which strengthens the probability that he was the king who lay in state aboard the Sutton Hoo ship-burial.

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The period from late Roman Britain to the formation of the early Anglo-Saxon kingdoms remains one of the most intractable in British archaeology. Here we shall review evidence from excavations in Colchester in particular and from Essex in general, in an attempt to throw light on the late Roman town and its landscape.  After lunch we shall consider the origins and early history of the kingdom of the Eastern Saxons from the perspective of the Anglo-Saxons, with special attention to the Prittlewell burial. 

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